Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spinach Protein Could Offer New Hope For The Blind

Date:
September 27, 2001
Source:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Summary:
Spinach, touted in the Popeye cartoon for its ability to strengthen the body, may prove even more valuable for restoring vision to people who are legally blind. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Southern California hope to learn whether a protein from spinach could replace a non-functioning light receptor in the eye.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sept. 26, 2001 – Spinach, touted in the Popeye cartoon for its ability to strengthen the body, may prove even more valuable for restoring vision to people who are legally blind. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Southern California hope to learn whether a protein from spinach could replace a non-functioning light receptor in the eye. People who suffer from age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa, diseases that are leading causes of blindness worldwide, may find hope in this research.

Related Articles


"Although the neural wiring from the eye to brain is intact in people with these diseases, their eyes lack photoreceptor activity," said Eli Greenbaum of ORNL’s Chemical Technology Division.

Greenbaum and colleagues propose replacing these non-functioning photoreceptors with a spinach protein that gives off a small electrical voltage after capturing the energy of incoming photons. The main function of Photosystem I, a photosynthetic reaction center protein, is to perform photosynthesis in leaves using the energy of the sun to make plant tissue.

Greenbaum’s collaborator is Mark Humayun, a professor in the University of Southern California’s Doheny Eye Institute. Humayun and his research team showed that if retinal tissue is stimulated electrically using pinhead-sized electrodes implanted in the eyes of legally blind patients, many can see image patterns that mimic the effects of stimulation by light.

Greenbaum believes that it might be possible to use Photosystem I protein to restore photoreceptor activity. Experiments by Greenbaum’s team showed that Photosystem I protein can capture photon energy and generate electric voltages of up to 1 volt.

"What we need to find out is whether these voltages can trigger neural events and allow the brain to interpret the images," Greenbaum said.

In recent research, the team showed that Photosystem I reaction centers protein could be incorporated into the membrane of an artificial liposome, a tiny spherical particle formed by a fatty (lipid) membrane enclosing a watery compartment. The artificial membrane mimics that of a living cell.

Greenbaum’s team also showed that the Photosystem I reaction centers can work inside a liposome, which means it produces the experimental equivalent of a voltage when it comes into contact with light. A liposome will likely be used to deliver Photosystem I reaction centers protein to a retinal cell.

In the United States, degeneration of the retina has left 20,000 people blind and 500,000 people visually impaired. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited condition of the retina in which specific photoreceptor cells, called rods, degenerate. The loss of function of these rod cells diminishes a person’s ability to see in dim light and gradually can reduce peripheral vision.

Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that affects the center of vision. It rarely leads to blindness but people with the disease have difficulty reading, driving and performing other activities that require fine, sharp straight-ahead vision. The disease affects the macula, the center of the retina.

The project also builds upon work using the technique of Kelvin force microscopy, in which Greenbaum and colleagues performed the first measurements of voltages induced by photons of light from single photosynthetic reaction centers. The work was published in 2000 in an issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

Other ORNL researchers involved in the project are Tanya Kuritz and James Lee of the Chemical Technology Division, Frank Larimer of the Life Sciences Division, and Ida Lee and Barry Bruce of the University of Tennessee.

"We have assembled an outstanding interdisciplinary team of scientists, vitreo-retinal surgeons, ophthalmologists and biomedical engineers to attack this important problem," Greenbaum said.

Greenbaum has long envisioned that his group’s research in photosynthesis could have an impact on people in terms of energy production and biomolecular electronics. Now, he’s especially excited that it could also restore vision to some blind people.

This research is funded by ORNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, which is provided by DOE. ORNL is a multiprogram research facility managed by UT-Battelle.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "Spinach Protein Could Offer New Hope For The Blind." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 September 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/010927072527.htm>.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (2001, September 27). Spinach Protein Could Offer New Hope For The Blind. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/010927072527.htm
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "Spinach Protein Could Offer New Hope For The Blind." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/09/010927072527.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins