Experimental cell transplants can improve the sight of visually impaired mice, it has been widely reported. The Independent called the research behind the news a “major step towards cure for blindness”, while The Guardian said the work is “the first demonstration that cell transplants can restore useful vision”.
During the research, scientists used mice bred to lack working light-sensitive “rod cells” in the back of their eyes. These cells normally allow us to see in low-light conditions. These visually impaired mice were then injected with immature cells extracted from the eyes of young mice with normal vision in the hope that this would improve their sight. Following treatment, the mice were tested in a simple maze featuring visual indicators of the location of the exit. Visually impaired mice that were not treated struggled to find the exit, while some of those given transplants successfully identified the exit 70% of the time.