A discovery about how some visually impaired adults could start to see offers a new vision of the brain’s possibilities. The finding that the adult brain has the potential to partially recover from inherited blindness comes from a collaboration between researchers in the University of California, Irvine School of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine. Their paper appears in Current Biology.
The team was examining treatment for Leber congenital amaurosis, known as LCA. The term refers to a group of inherited retinal diseases distinguished by severe visual impairment at birth. The condition, which stems from mutations in any of over two dozen genes, causes degeneration or dysfunction in the retina’s photoreceptors.
Administering chemical compounds that target the retina, called synthetic retinoids, can restore a notable amount of vision in children with LCA. The UCI team wanted to find out if the treatment could make a difference for adults who have the condition.
Working with rodent models of LCA, the collaborators were surprised by what they found. “The central visual pathway signaling was significantly restored in adults, especially the circuits that deal with information coming from both eyes,” said Sunil Gandhi, professor of neurobiology and behavior and the corresponding author.