Saw this nice little study and thought I'd share. The Kramer Lab at UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) has been investigating chemical methods of restoring sight in degenerative blinding diseases. They published a paper in 2012 which showed that a small molecule, AAQ, was able to restore the ability to detect light in blind mice. Unfortunately, AAQ had some drawbacks., a main one being the need for UV light to activate it. UV light is pretty bad for human eyes, and our lens filter out most UV rays.
Their latest paper from last week investigates a new compound, DENAQ, which can be activated by visible light. When blind mice were injected with DENAQ, they found that the retinal ganglion cells became responsive to light. Importantly, the mice were responding to the new light signals, becoming more active, and even learning to associate electric shocks with light (I know =(, poor mice).
It'd be pretty cool to see if this translates into humans, but of course, there are drawbacks. DENAQ's effects are short term, and would require weekly to monthly injections. (Side note: interesting video I came across of eye injections. Spaced99...you're not going to want to click that =P). Also, its effects only work on eyes that have already experienced degeneration, and presumably can't do much to prevent it. Either way, a very cool thing that scientists are researching!