"Researchers have identified distinct differences among the cells comprising a tissue in the retina that is vital to human visual perception. The scientists discovered five subpopulations of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) -- a layer of tissue that nourishes and supports the retina's light-sensing photoreceptors. Using artificial intelligence, the researchers analyzed images of RPE at single-cell resolution to create a reference map that locates each subpopulation within the eye."

"The development of alternative, non-viral delivery platforms like nanoparticles is of great interest to extend the application of gene therapy for RP. Amino-functionalized mesoporous silica-based nanoparticles (N-MSiNPs) were synthesized, physico-chemically characterized, and evaluated as gene delivery systems for human cells in vitro and for retinal cells in vivo. .... No adverse effects were detected for the integrity of the retinal tissue or the visual function of treated eyes. N-MSiNPs were able to deliver a therapeutic transgene candidate for RP, PRPF31, both in vitro and in vivo. N-MSiNPs are safe for retinal delivery and thus a potential alternative to viral vectors."

"Vinberg points out this approach can reduce research costs compared to non-human primate research and dependence on animal models that produce results that do not always apply to humans. While mice are commonly used in vision research, they do not have a macula. Researchers can also test potential new therapies on functioning human eye cells, speeding drug development."

As part of its SpaceX Crew-4 mission that launched to the International Station earlier this week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is moving forward with an experiment to manufacture organic retinas in space. NASA partnered up with Farmington, Connecticut firm LambdaVision which designs and develops protein-based artificial retinas in 2020, and the experiment will continue to explore retina manufacturing in space as part of the agency's efforts to develop a multi-billion-dollar low Earth orbit (LEO) space economy.

"We're hoping these early generation retinal patches will be safe and restore some vision. Then we'll be able to innovate and improve upon the technology and the outcomes over time. We didn't start out with supercomputers on our wrists and we're not going to start out by completely erasing blindness in our first attempt. But we're very excited about taking a significant step in that direction."

David Gamm, Director, McPherson Eye Research Institute and Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual sciences, UW School of Medicine and Public HealthReviewed by Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

While there are no successful non-invasive therapeutics currently available for the treatment of vision loss, researchers at have come up with a new idea to address this growing problem. Currently, ophthalmologists use electronic technology to directly stimulate retinal neurons by implanting electrode devices inside the eye, a technique that requires expensive and invasive surgery. A research team is now exploring a non-surgical solution that could restore sight by using another of the five senses: Sound.

Another gene therapy for hereditary blindness. While not Usher 1F, it's an encouraging step forward.

“These results represent a step towards non-invasive retinal prosthesis development using ultrasound,” conclude co-first authors Xuejun Qian and Gengxi Lu. “The in vivo demonstration of visual restoration in blind rats suggested that ultrasound opens a new avenue for the development of a novel non-invasive retinal prosthesis.”

“There may be a long window of opportunity in which suppressing retinoic acid with drugs like disulfiram could substantially improve low vision and make a real difference in people’s quality of life,” said Kramer, the CH and Annie Li Chair in Molecular Biology of Diseases at UC Berkeley and a member of the campus’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. “Because the drug is already FDA-approved, the regulatory hurdles are low. It wouldn’t be a permanent cure, but right now there are no available treatments that even temporarily improve vision.”

In a new paper published in Light: Science and Applications, a research team at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have investigated the creation of hybrid photoreceptors that could develop an efficient artificial retina network. The paper is entitled "A Flexible Capacitive Photoreceptor for the Biomimetic Retina."