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Blind Man's Vision Partially Restored After 40 Years With New Gene Therapy

Discussion in 'Ophthalmology' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, May 25, 2021.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

    Mar 5, 2019
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    Science was able to bring back vision on a 58-year old who was diagnosed almost 40 years ago with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a neurodegenerative eye disease that impacts the retina at the back of the eye, making it non-functional (study published in Nature).


    In RP, cells in the retina get damaged and broken down, causing blindness. There is no other way to treat RP except gene replacement therapy that too only works on the early-onset phase.

    However, researchers were able to bring back the vision with the help of an innovative treatment that used genetic engineering and light-activated therapy. They used a technique known as optogenetics to genetically change cells in the retina to enable them to produce light-sensitive proteins dubbed channelrhodopsins.

    The treatment results in enabling gene coding for a channelrhodopsin protein dubbed ChrimsonR that can detect amber light. To make this work, researchers also developed special glasses equipped with a camera that captured and projected visual images to the retina at amber light wavelengths.

    The patient was trained for a few months to get used to this, while genetically altered cells stabilised. And nearly seven months later, the patient showed signs of visual improvement.

    During the initial testing, researchers also looked at his brain activity using EEG (electroencephalography). Researchers had put a tumbler on the table and asked the patient to tell whether it was present or absent on the table.

    End results revealed that the patient was able to see what was in front of him with 78 percent accuracy. Even though it’s still in its early stages, researchers feel it is a crucial step for new targeted treatments for people suffering from RP.

    Botond Roska, founding director at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel and professor at the University of Basel, Switzerland, said, "The findings provide proof of concept that using optogenetic therapy to partially restore vision is possible."


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