The Good Rats

Rats are often maligned because they are, pretty much, disgusting. Street rats live on the trash left by humans, swim in the sewers and have no earthly good whatsoever. Unless they are laboratory rats. Then they have the possibility to do good for humans everywhere. Kind of makes you rethink the whole “I hate rats” thing.

rat-194807_1280Everyone knows rats are used in medical research, for good or bad, not too many people really care since they are rats. But now, rats have made a medical breakthrough that will make humans, at least the ones who are in danger of losing their eyesight, very happy. Or rather, researchers have made the breakthrough, with the help of lab rats, let’s give credit where it is due.

A Cure For Blindness?

Retinitis pigmentosa is a class of diseases which cause patients to gradually lose their sight. It is an inherited disease of the retina which affects about 1 in 4,000 people. It starts with patients experiencing night blindness, in the early stages, then comes atrophy and pigment changes in the retina, constriction of the vision and eventual blindness, research-1029340_1280according to the National Institutes of Health.

Rats have helped identify the affected gene and rewrite the genetic code to delete that gene. That is truly an over-simplification of the whole unbelievably complicated process, but in a nutshell, that’s what they do.


I have never been a fan of genetically modified organisms. I would rather not eat a strawberry that has a fish gene programmed into it so that it will withstand colder temperatures. Soybeans and other crops that have been genetically programmed to respond to only one pesticide or herbicide make me want to grow my own food. Just not a fan of eating things that nature didn’t intend. But if by manipulating genes they can actually do good, very good things, like reducing blindness in people, then I’m all for it.

Hope For the Future

This procedure is very new, in the infantile stages of development, which means it will be a very long time before it is ready to be used on humans. But to all those who suffer from this malady, those who are just waiting for their eyesight to leave them in the dark, it is a bright beacon of light, pun intended.

Here’s hoping that rats truly can make a difference in the world. Perhaps this might make them appear slightly less disgusting. Or not.

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