Looking into the future: A stem cell development to cure blindness, plus a playlist of visionary talks

Posted by: Emmie Le Marchand

thinkstock_99343172_586x357Scientists in London have achieved a significant breakthrough on the road to curing blindness this week.

Certain kinds of blindness are caused when photoreceptors — the cells in the retina that react with light and send an electrical signal to the brain — die off. Researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London have, for the first time, created a technique to transform stem cells into photoreceptors and inject them into the eyes of mice. The BBC reports that studies of this technique in humans are not terribly far off. Says lead researcher Robin Ali, “Five years is a now a realistic aim for starting a clinical trial.”

Stem cell research is a hot topic in science and TED has had many speakers on the topic. At TEDGlobal 2012, the founder of the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF), Susan Solomon, spoke on the incredible promise of research with stem cells. She finds herself very encouraged by this news.

“To restore vision, safely and effectively, is an enormous challenge,” she tells the TED Blog. “We are incredibly excited by the British group’s advance in creating working photoreceptors from stem cells. However, many eye diseases do not discriminate between cell type, resulting in tissue-wide damage. At NYSCF, we enable work that complements the British group’s advance. Our collaborators have been applying similar techniques to create the eye cells supportive of photoreceptors.”

To celebrate this development towards the restoration of vision, below a playlist of talks on blindness and sight — from a car for blind drivers to a new way to experience color.

Pawan Sinha: How brains learn to seePawan Sinha: How brains learn to see
Pawan Sinha on how brains learn to see
Pawan Sinha gives blind children the gift of sight. In this talk from TEDIndia 2009, Sinha details his research on the development of the brain’s visual system, offering insight into neuroscience and engineering, as well as into autism. Sinha and his research team provide free vision-restoring treatment to children born blind, and then study how their brains interpret this new visual data.
Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind driversDennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers
Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers
Director of the robotics and engineering company RoMeLa, Dennis Hong is building a car for drivers who are blind. In this talk from TED2011, he stresses how this is not a ‘self-driving’ car, but one in which a non-sighted driver can determine speed, proximity and route.
Sheila Nirenberg: A prosthetic eye to treat blindnessSheila Nirenberg: A prosthetic eye to treat blindness
Sheila Nirenberg: A prosthetic eye to treat blindness
In her TEDMED talk from 2012, Sheila Nirenberg presents a new way to create vision for those suffering from certain types of blindness. Here, she explains how she has created a prosthetic sensory device by hooking into the optic nerve and sending signals directly from the camera to the brain.
Neil Harbisson: I listen to colorNeil Harbisson: I listen to color
Neil Harbisson: I listen to color
Artist Neil Harbisson experiences color through sound. Born completely color blind, Harbisson now wears a device attached to his head that allows him to perceive the world around him in a symphony of color, listening to faces, paintings and colors beyond the range of sight.
Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we seeBeau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see
Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see
In this talk from TEDGlobal 2009, Beau Lotto plays games with color to puzzle your vision, highlight things you can’t normally see and illustrate how your brain works. Offering a first-hand look at the versatile sense of sight, Lotto reveals how evolution tints your perception of what is really out there.

Comments (12)

  • Pingback: How technology is changing blindness: 6 talks on how those who can’t see can drive cars, take photographs and more | TokNok Multi Social Blogging Solutions

  • commented on Sep 3 2013

    Reblogged this on Speak2See.

  • bura tadu commented on Aug 23 2013

    Tristan. I agree that Francisco`s stori is surprising, on monday I got a new Saab 99 Turbo since getting a cheque for $9386 this past 5 weeks and more than ten-grand lass month. it’s definitly the most financialy rewarding Ive ever had. I actually started 10-months ago and pretty much immediately startad making over $85 per-hr. I work through this website,

  • commented on Aug 17 2013

    Reblogged this on Holy Strategies, Batman! and commented:
    Examine how ” vision works”. Explain the process in depth.

  • bupe damo commented on Aug 4 2013

    If you think Marvin`s story is cool,, a month-back my boyfriend also made $5696 workin a 10 hour week from there apartment and there friend’s step-mother`s neighbour did this for 5 months and got more than $5696 part-time on-line. the guidelines on this address,

  • Irv Arons commented on Jul 29 2013

    In my online Journal (Irv Arons’ Journal), I blog about new technologies for treating retinal diseases, including the use of stem cells and gene therapy.

    I have published sets of tables for both stem cells and gene therapy’s use in ophthalmology, including who’s involved, what disease states are being investigated, and an updated list of ongoing and completed clinical trials (with live links to the trials info).

    The stem cell info can be found at
    and the gene therapy info at

    Irv Arons

  • Irv Arons commented on Jul 29 2013

    To read more about Dr. Nirenberg’s technique, please take a look at my write up about it: A New Technique for Restoring Normal Vision to the Blind: The Technology of Prof. Sheila Nirenberg of Weill Cornell Medical School


    Irv Arons

  • commented on Jul 28 2013

    Reblogged this on yo también fuí adolesente!.

  • commented on Jul 26 2013

    Republicou isso em Curiosidades na internet.

  • commented on Jul 26 2013

    Reblogged this on Collectables and commented:
    Wow. To my blind friends, read this – with screen readers if you have them.

  • commented on Jul 25 2013

    Reblogged this on The Story Store.

  • Forker Gryle commented on Jul 25 2013

    Reblogged this on moxie supper.