Research on Cats Could Solve Vision Problems
COLUMBIA (AP) - Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia hope Gingersnap, a four-year-old Abyssinian cat, can eventually help blind people to see. Veterinary ophthalmologists are implanting special silicon chips in partially blind cats like Gingersnap that could eventually replace or possibly regenerate diseased retinas. Doctor Kristina Narfstrom is leading the research. She is responsible for discovering a feline-version of retinitis pigmentosa, which strikes about one in 3,500 Americans and often causes blindness. Narfstrom says the two-millimeter-wide chips researchers are using have about 5,000 micro-photo-diodes that react to light, sending a signal along the eye's optic nerve to the brain. It will be at least two years before Narfstrom learns whether the implants are encouraging retinal cells in her cats to regrow. The implant's application to humans could also be years away.