Narrator: This is Science Today. A neurobiologist at the University of California, Berkeley has given ‘blind' nerve cells the ability to detect light by inserting a light-activated switch in brain cells normally insensitive to light and turning those cells on with a green light and off with ultraviolet light. Richard Kramer, a professor of molecular and cell biology, explains why light is a nice way to influence neurons.
Kramer: With light, the cell is sort of a point and shoot kind of system – the cell that you're pointing at and only that cell will be directly affected by that light beam. And with a laser, you can make a light beam very small in size. And so you can individually affect single nerve cells or even parts of single nerve cells and at the same time, by using this scanning approach, you could affect many nerve cells in patterns.
Narrator: This technique could one day lead to an innovative therapy that could restore sight to those who have lost it through disease.
Kramer: And that would involve engineers making such a device that would scan light onto your retina.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.