A truly extraordinary cure for some forms of blindness is being proposed. The idea is to add light-absorbing pigments from spinach to nerve cells in the retina, to make the nerve cells fire when struck by light.
Eli Greenbaum’s team at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee has been exploring this possibility for several years. In their latest experiments, the researchers have shown that adding plant pigments to human cells makes the cells respond to light.
The technique would restore only limited vision at best – people would be colour-blind, for instance – but Greenbaum thinks it could provide far better resolution than the electronic retinal implants being developed.