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Eye Cells Being Grown May Lead To a Cure for MS Related Blindness

December 28, 2015

Doctors at the renowned Johns Hopkins University checked once a day for a month to see if they successfully edited the eye cells’ DNA. Once the eye cells turned red it would allow them to be sorted from other cells.

The cells the researchers grew are called “retinal ganglion cells”. They are found in the retina and have a long tail called an axon that becomes the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. In diseases such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, the optic nerve becomes damaged, making it difficult or impossible for the eye to communicate with the brain.

This could potentially be the missing piece researchers need to find a cure for blindness caused by multiple sclerosis. This eye-cell breakthrough will also researchers to better understand the disease and develop better and faster-working therapies.

Johns Hopkins is already under contract with pharmaceutical company Bayer to begin testing new therapies.

The Hopkins researchers cautioned that there are many hurdles to overcome before they could develop a cure for blindness with transplanted optic nerves but said this offered hope. "If you talk to patients and they rate what they're most scared of, obviously it's cancer and dying, but vision always comes out as one of the things that people are afraid of losing and really value," said Dr. Donald Zack, a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who lead the study growing eye cells. "It would really change their lives."