May 25, 2021

New Gene Therapy Offers Insight into Curing Blindness

A man has had his eyesight partially restored, thanks to a new experimental therapy pioneered by an international team of scientists from the USA and Europe.

Although the 58-year-old man from Brittany in France only had glimmers of his vision restored, the result is a huge success for the team at French firm, GenSight Biologics.

The treatment, called optogenetics, involves changing the genetic make-up of the light-sensitive nerve cells in the eye so that they respond accordingly to stimuli.

The clinical trial required the man to receive injections into his eye and undergo months of wearing special goggles that projected world visuals as light pulses directly into the retina.

The end-result allowed him to locate, recognise and count objects in front of him.

The breakthrough was made possible by a dedicated group of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston; France’s Sorbonne University and the National Centre for Scientific Research; along with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Jose-Alain Sahel, the head author on the study, confirmed that the trial experiment provided proof-of-concept that optogenetics could restore sight in humans.

The study stated that obviously some forms of blindness could not be treated so simply if nerve cells are completely inert, so there’s not much that can be done.

Sahel commented: “It’s obviously not the end of the road, but it’s a major milestone.”

The future is a little hazy, but it certainly looks brighter and clearer.