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Treating eye disorders using animals

Two studies in the US have uncovered new ways to study and treat conditions of the eye, based on research in mice, monkeys and zebrafish.

A team, at Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University (including the Oregon National Primate Research Center), developed a way to deliver mRNA to the eye to potentially treat inherited forms of blindness.

Getting mRNA to the eye is an essential first step of the therapy because the mRNA is needed to make the proteins that will repair the gene mutations that can lead to blindness.

The researchers managed to target the photoreceptor eye cells of mice and monkeys (which detect light) using microscopic lipid nanoparticles – ‘delivery vehicles’ made of fat – that contained mRNA and were coated with a peptide molecule.

Professor Gaurav Sahay, at Oregon State, said: “The peptide ensures mRNA is precisely delivered to photoreceptors — cells that we haven’t been able to target with lipid nanoparticles until now.”

Meanwhile, the US National Eye Institute (NEI), Maryland, part of the National Institutes of Health, has modelled a rare genetic disorder called NEDBEH in zebrafish. NEDBEH can prevent the eye from developing properly, resulting in parts that are missing, such as the iris or retina.

Studying NEDBEH in zebrafish will allow scientists to investigate the causes of the disorder and its mechanisms, as well as better understand early eye development.


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