Upgraded Photoswitch for Vision Repair

Researchers improve on a technique to use a light-stimulated small molecule to confer longer-term photosensitivity to the retinal cells of blind mice.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Apr 13, 2017

WIKIMEDIA, RAMAIn 2014, Richard Kramer from the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues described a small molecule called DENAQ, which stimulated responses to light in the degenerated photoreceptors of blind mice. But the treatment required a high concentration of DENAQ, and the effects began to wane after only a couple of days, disappearing altogether after only a week or so. In response to these limitations, Kramer’s team developed BENAQ, “an improved photoswitch that is potent, long-lasting, and safe in large animal eyes,” the researchers reported today (April 13) in Scientific Reports.

In blind mice, BENAQ was 20-fold more potent than DENAQ, the researchers found, restoring the animals’ visual responses for nearly a month. Like DENAQ, the new compound selectively targeted blind retinas, leaving healthy retinas unaffected. Finally, the team demonstrated that BENAQ is nontoxic in mice and rabbits at concentrations ten-fold higher than needed to see the treatment’s effects....

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