Researchers at the University of California - Berkeley have found a way to treat eye diseases such as macular degeneration by turning ganglion cells into cells that can sense light.Many degenerative eye diseases are caused by photoreceptors that no longer work correctly. This new technique eliminates the need for photoreceptor cells.
Using an inactivated virus, researchers introduced a gene into ganglion cells of mice that had macular degeneration. Ganglion cells don't "see" anything, but the the gene that was injected into them causes the cells to become sensitive to green light.
The mice have been trained to respond to different symbols prior to losing their vision to macular degeneration. After receiving the injected, gene, the mice were able to respond to the symbols again. Within three years, this type of gene therapy could potentially be attempted on human subjects.