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Consortium formed to treat human blindness

Narrator:       This is Science Today. At the University of California, Berkeley, a consortium has formed to work on treating human blindness. Dave Schaffer, director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center, says in particular, the team led by a UC Berkeley neurobiologist is looking into how to deal with the loss of photoreceptors, or light-sensing cells, within the eye.

Schaffer:        One thought that this consortium has been developing is that maybe we can take some of those neurons that don't ordinarily sense light and really give them the ability to see light.

Narrator:       To do this, there also needs to be changes within the brain so it is prepared to process and understand that information.

Schaffer:        One idea is to take a certain protein, which has the ability to sense light and then deliver the gene encoding that protein to these other populations of neurons inside the eye to, in a sense, build a new population of photoreceptors inside the eye.

Narrator:       While the consortium has shown that this can be done, it's still in the early stages, but Schaffer says it has put researchers on a strong path to develop new strategies to treat blindness. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.