Macular degeneration is stealing the vision of 13 million Americans, but one therapy retrains the eye after damage is done.
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Melissa Medley: For Russell DeLong this would have been impossible four years ago. Macular degeneration made his world go black. Russell DeLong: To start with I was totally blind. I couldn't see nothing. Melissa Medley: He had surgery, but his vision was still blurry. Russell DeLong: Everything looked like a real heavy fog, real heavy. I couldn't see that tractor at all. I could just tell there's something there. Melissa Medley: After years of treatment he thought he was out of options. A recent study found the brain reorganizes itself to compensate for vision loss; that's the key to a new therapy that teaches patients a whole new way of seeing. Male Speaker: And what we're seeing here is a picture of this retina. Melissa Medley: This computer maps areas of the retina damaged by macular degeneration and those that are still intact. Then it trains the patient to shift his vision using the good retinal cells to see. Dr. Susan Primo: So it's really a series of vital feedback training to get the patient to move in that position that we feel is going to be most sensitive to give him or her the best vision. Russell DeLong: In a related development -- Melissa Medley: Now with special glasses, Russell can read a magazine. Back on the farm he can see things that used to be a blur. Russell DeLong: If I look at it, it's blank, nothing out there. I turn my head a little bit, I see around the scarred tissue, I have the tractor here, I can do everything out here, everything. Melissa Medley: At 74, Russell still has busy days ahead and wants to see every second. Russell DeLong: I am going to keep going. Melissa Medley: I'm Melissa Medley reporting.