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'Reboot' could cure amblyopia

Researchers have discovered a new technique that could help cure amblyopia in humans by 'rebooting' the eyes.

The current technique of correcting amblyopia, or 'lazy eye', typically involves applying a patch or a drug called atropine to the stronger eye, forcing the person to use their weaker eye. Though the effectiveness of this technique is limited by poor compliance and variable outcomes.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Dalhouse University, Canada, have discovered a new technique that shows more promise than current amblyopa treatments.

This new technique involves temporarily inactivating the retinas using an anesthetic and waiting for them to reactivate, or 'reboot'.

To date the technique has only been tested on animals with amblyopia but it has shown positive results. With researchers finding that once the anesthetic had worn off, visual acuity was restored to the previously affected eye, without any penalty to the stronger eye.

Animals undertaking this test were monitored well in to adulthood and showed no signs of their amblyopia returning, proving that the treatment can provide permanent results.

Ms Ming-fai Fong, lead author of the study's paper to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said that the treatment does seem to be 'rebooting' the visual system of the animals in a way that makes it start paying attention to information received through the previously affected eye.

Currently, researchers are aiming to confirm how long retinal inactivation must be undertaken in order to promote recovery in the affected eye.

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