Could the light at the end of the tunnel… cure blindness?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Your eyes and brain communicate in perfect harmony to let you see. But for kids with amblyopia, or “lazy eye syndrome,” this tango gets messed up. The brain can start ignoring input from the lazy eye, and eventually leave a child blind on one side. When patients are young, eye patches can get the brain back in tune. But ADULTS have a rough time getting lazy eyes fixed.
Fortunately, Elizabeth Quinlan at the University of Maryland is challenging that.
Her team looked for ways to restore vision in adult rats with lazy eyes. They discovered that putting these rats in complete darkness for ten days dramatically improved their condition.
Why was this therapy so effective? Turns out, it wasn’t the darkness itself that restored vision in the rats. It was the moment rats re-entered into light!
The secret? Fresh light activated enzymes that let vision cells form new connections, even in an adult brain. Hallelujah! Quinlan thinks that someday, drugs could be developed that would activate these molecules directly, no significant darkness needed.
Hope is in SIGHT for lazy eyes. Lazy teenagers… not so much!