The therapy can give back the eyesight even for blind people, and its tests on Hungarian patients are going to start soon.
According to Qubit, the cooperation of Arnold Szabó (Retina Laboratory of the Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology at Semmelweis University, Faculty of Medicine), molecular and cellular biologist Botond Roska (who leads the neurobiology research group of the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel), and Dániel Hillier (ELTE and Pázmány Péter Universities, Budapest) developed the new therapy that may mean a
breakthrough in treating impaired vision and even blindness.
In short, the Hungarian researchers managed to restore the light sensitivity of the retina by using the mechanism of how snakes can see. Interestingly, snakes cannot only see with their eyes but they can also sense heat. The group was able to get the ion channels playing a significant role in that process into the human retina with the help of viruses and managed to activate them with infrared light, which is how they could restore the light sensitivity of the retina.
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Botond Roska leads the group who previously discovered that viruses can help to get special ion channels inside the human retina. The research group of the Semmelweis University led by Arnold Szabó joined to develop a technique with which the human retina remains viable for up to 14 weeks. They published their relevant results in 2019 in Nature Neuroscience.
Their final goal is to avoid blindness and restore vision for everybody. In January 2019, Mr Roska confidently said that there was no incurable form of blindness. He also added that the special virus he developed in Switzerland transmitting the genetically modified elements (like ion channels) into the retina cells does not affect any other cells in the human body.
The research group said that they aim to create a centre in Hungary where they can treat patients with this still new and unique therapy.