The unprecedented, if partial, restoration could pave the way to future work that enables blind people to see, the study said.
Cataracts can often be surgically removed, but there’s no cure for glaucoma, said the study’s senior author Andrew Huberman, Associate Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine
Glaucoma, caused by excessive pressure on the optic nerve, affects nearly 70 million people worldwide.
Vision loss due to optic-nerve damage can also accrue from injuries, retinal detachment, pituitary tumors, various brain cancers and other sources.
In experiments with mice described in a study published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the scientists reported regenerating severed nerves responsible for conveying visual information from the eye to the brain, thereby re-establishing the connection between their eyes and brain.
The mice were tested three weeks later after the experiment for their ability to respond to certain visual stimuli.
However, even mice whose behaviour showed restored vision on some tests failed other tests that probably required finer visual discrimination, Huberman said, suggesting the the restoration of vision in the animals was only partial.
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at University of California-San Diego, Harvard University and Utah State University.