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Vision Problems of Premature Babies May Now Be Avoided by Light Therapy

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have discovered that light therapy may help premature babies avoid vision problems. They have discovered a light-dependent molecular pathway that regulates how blood vessels develop in the eye.

Further studies imply that light therapy might help premature babies fight vision problems whose eyes are still developing. The newly-discovered molecular process helps ensure that the development of the blood vessels in the infant’s eye is properly balanced to equip it for visual function.

Light Therapy and Vision Problems

Vision Problems of Premature Babies

Scientists are studying for measures to avert or cure eye diseases such as retinopathy and myopia (severe near-sightedness) caused by prematurity.

Richard A. Lang, Ph.D., study senior author explains: “Our study indicates opsin 5-dopamine pathway is probably part of a light-dependent disease process for conditions like myopia, which is now a worldwide epidemic.”
“It raises the interesting possibility that we might be able to use light exposure to treat conditions like retinopathy of prematurity after a premature infant is born or in people with myopia.”

Preventing Vision Problems

Vision Problems of Premature Babies

Throughout an experiment with postnatal eye development in mice, the researchers exhibited in their mouse models that the light responses in the retina by the opsin 5 controls the development of the postnatal eye for high-acuity vision. Opsin 5 is a protein that is represented in special photoreceptor cells in the retina. Together with the neurotransmitter dopamine, opsin 5 regulates the eye’s balanced vascular development.

The scientists modified the mice models to show what the loss of opsin 5 will do to the development of vision. Modified mice that do not express the OPN5 in the retina caused hyaloid blood vessels in the still-developing eyes to regress very quickly. This resulted in the hindering of normal eye development.

Clarifying the Problem

To examine the impact of light stimulation, the scientists used 380-nanometre violet-colored light to stimulate signaling via opsin 5. This decreased dopamine levels in the eye and various molecular changes helped restore proper timing cues necessary for properly balanced vascular development.

Earlier researches have implied that violet light and dopamine may be crucial regulators of vision development. Although these were only done by mice and not yet proven and tested on humans, particularly premature babies, the data collected contributes to further medical advancements. The study does demonstrate that balanced coordination in the opsin 5-dopamine pathway is vital to healthy eye development in baby mice, and perhaps in human babies.