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Green algae could hold a cure for blindness

A type of simple, single-celled green algae could be a cure for blindness, Wired reports. The algae, known as Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, only has a primitive eye that it uses to locate sunlight to help with photosynthesis. But a light-sensitive protein called channelrhodopsin-2 found in its eyespot could one day be transplanted into humans’ retinas, thus returning sight to the blind. The Food and Drug Administration approved human clinical trials for such a procedure just last month. Over the last decade, neuroscientists have used the protein to make neurons react to light to help them study the brain, a technique known as optogenetics. Now, the Ann Arbor, Michigan–based company, RetroSense Therapeutics, has recruited 15 patients rendered blind by a genetic eye disease for its clinical trial to find out whether channelrhodopsin-2 will work in eye cells, too. If it does, the quality of vision the patients will have remains unknown, but mice that have had a similar treatment appear to see bars of light, which scientists say is promising. 

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