When Wayne State University researcher Dr. Zhou-Hua Pan placed a light-sensitive green algae protein into blind mice in 2006, he was amazed to find that it restored the subjects' vision almost immediately. Fast forward to 2015, the year of many great things, and that protein is now the subject of a forthcoming set of human trials aimed at unveiling a potential cure for blindness in humans.
RetroSense Therapeutics, the company who leased the research from Dr. Zhou-Hua Pan and recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to administer human trials, is expected to begin testing the protein on 15 patients by the end of the year. According to Singularity Hub, channelrhodopsin-2 is the same "magical switch" protein already famous for its ability to "turn a gentle mouse aggressive, shut down obsessive grooming behavior, and implant false memories in unsuspecting mice."
The protein is placed directly into the retina using gene therapy, allowing the rod-and-cone system to be bypassed entirely and giving the eye's ganglion cells the ability to sense light on their own. Though some levels of colorblindness may persist even with successful implementation of the forthcoming human trials, some researchers speculate that the human brain could potentially make adjustments in order to counteract the color loss.
Keep up the good work, science. We're all counting on you.
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