We’re already familiar with the three blind mice, but we never hear about blind zebrafish. Perhaps that’s because zebrafish have admirably flexible retinal stem cells called Müller glia (MG). In zebrafish, these cells can replenish damaged retinal neurons and restore vision. In mice and other mammals, however, Müller glia usually refuse to differentiate into retinal neurons. Sometimes they do, to a limited extent, in response to injury, which raises interesting questions: Could Müller glia be activated by less drastic means, and could these cells even serve, potentially, as a way to reverse blinding diseases? To answer these questions, scientists based at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai tried using genetic factors to stimulate the regenerative machinery in Müller glia.

The scientists succeeded in changing Müller glia into rod photoreceptors. The scientists also reversed congenital blindness in mice.

Detailed findings appeared August 15 in the journal …