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Nanowires restore vision in blind mice

Blind mice have had their vision partially restored by Chinese scientists, who replaced the animals’ dead photoreceptors with artificial versions made of gold and titanium oxide.

Researchers from Fudan University and the University of Science and Technology of China created nanowires covered with tiny gold flakes, which helped restore green, blue and near UV light responses in the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) with a spatial resolution better than 100 μm. However, the wires were not enough to restore full colour vision to the test mice.

The scientists surgically implanted the wires in spaces previously occupied by the photoreceptors and established physical contact with retinal cells to allow electrical pulses to pass through to the visual cortex.

The test mice used were genetically engineered as models for retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. This meant the rest of the eye and the brain’s visual processing system had remained in tact and able to process visual signals.

To establish whether the device was working, the researchers measured the response of the visual cortex when light hit the eyes of the test subjects and compared them to control subjects that had not undergone the procedure.

The retinal cells and visual processing systems in the test mice appeared normal, and their pupils even began to dilate, suggesting that the eyes were once again sensitive to light.

The study was published last month in Nature Communications.

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