Acquire the license to the best health content in the world
Contact Us

Science Inches Closer to Regenerating Sight

Optic nerve experiments on rats called an important step

FRIDAY, Feb. 20, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Using a two-pronged approach to encouraging growth, American scientists say they've made an important advance in regenerating damaged nerve fibers.

A combination of activating nerve cells' natural growth state and using gene therapy to mute the effects of growth-inhibiting factors let them achieve about three times more nerve fiber regeneration than previous attempts, say researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. Results appear in the Feb. 18 Journal of Neuroscience.

The experiments were conducted on the damaged optic nerves of rats.

"When we combined these two therapies -- activating the growth program in nerve cells and overcoming the inhibitory signaling -- we got very dramatic regeneration," Dr. Larry Benowitz, director of neuroscience research at Children's Hospital, says in a prepared statement.

The amount of regeneration wasn't enough to restore the rats' vision. But it was about triple the amount of regeneration achieved by stimulating growth factors alone.

Benowitz says his lab will continue trying to repair damaged optic nerves to restore vision.

"We have to fine-tune the system, and we have some ideas of how to do it," Benowitz says. "But then we come to another big hurdle."

That hurdle is getting the optic nerve fibers to link up to the correct areas in the brain in a way that visual images don't get scrambled.

"It's a mapping problem," Benowitz says. "We have to retain the proper organization of fiber projections to the brain."

More information

To learn more about eye diseases, go to the National Eye Institute .

SOURCE: Children's Hospital Boston, news release, Feb. 18, 2004
Consumer News