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A new technique

PTI | ByAsian News International, Washington
Nov 24, 2004 03:23 PM IST

A new technique enables nerve cells to detect light, thus, paving way for an innovative therapy.

Scientists at the University of California, have developed a technique, which enables the nerve cells to detect light, thus, paving the way for an innovative therapy that could restore sight to those who have lost it through disease.

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In a report published in journal Nature Neuroscience, a University of California team, lead by neurobiologist Richard H. Kramer, UC Berkeley and Dirk Trauner, has suceeded in inserting a light-activated switch into brain cells , which are normally insensitive to light, thus enabling the cells to turn on with green light and turn off with ultraviolet light.

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This trick could potentially help those who have lost the light-sensitive rods and cones in their eyes because of nerve damage or diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration.

"We may be able to use laser scanning to trace on and off patterns on the retina and allow people to see visual patterns," Kramer said.

"With this technique, you also could confer light sensitivity on organisms that normally don't have vision, such as the nematode worm C. elegans.Taking this from a chemical novelty to showing that it works in a biological system is a real breakthrough," Trauner added.

The trio is hopefull that their findings would prove to helpful in eliminating blindness.

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