Scientists test algae in gene therapy for blindness

Algae, that green stuff that resembles mom’s old spinach stew, may just be the cure for blindness. Perhaps it sounds far-fetched, but the American Food and Drug Administration has approved human clinical trials with algae. Green algae contain a light-sensitive protein called Channelrhodopsin-2 (rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?). Scientists have been using this protein to make neurons react to light. By transplanting the channelrhodopsin-2 gene into neurons in the human retina, scientists are trying to rewire the brain circuits with light. The process is called optogenetics, and has a lot of potential. It’s a form of gene therapy, but instead of using human genes, the algae-genes should do the trick.

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Scientists test algae in gene therapy for blindness

Algae, that green stuff that resembles mom’s old spinach stew, may just be the cure for blindness. Perhaps it sounds far-fetched, but the American Food and Drug Administration has approved human clinical trials with algae. Green algae contain a light-sensitive protein called Channelrhodopsin-2 (rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?). Scientists have been using this protein to make neurons react to light. By transplanting the channelrhodopsin-2 gene into neurons in the human retina, scientists are trying to rewire the brain circuits with light. The process is called optogenetics, and has a lot of potential. It’s a form of gene therapy, but instead of using human genes, the algae-genes should do the trick.

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