Gene therapy shows promise for reversing blindness

October 2, 2017, University of Oxford
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Most causes of untreatable blindness occur due to loss of the millions of light sensitive photoreceptor cells that line the retina, similar to the pixels in a digital camera.

The remaining retinal nerve cells which are not light sensitive however remain in the eye. Samantha de Silva and colleagues (University of Oxford) used a viral vector to express a light sensitive protein, melanopsin, in the residual retinal cells in mice which were blind from , the most common cause of blindness in young people.

The mice were monitored for over a year and they maintained vision during this time, being able to recognise objects in their environment which indicated a high level of visual perception. The expressing melanopsin were able to respond to and send visual signals to the brain. The Oxford team has also been trialling an electronic retina successfully in , but the genetic approach may have advantages in being simpler to administer.

The research was led by Professors Robert MacLaren and Mark Hankins at the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology in Oxford. Samantha de Silva, the lead author of the study said: "There are many blind patients in our clinics and the ability to give them some sight back with a relatively simple genetic procedure is very exciting. Our next step will be to start a clinical trial to assess this in patients."

The full paper, "Long-term restoration of visual function in end-stage retinal degeneration using subretinal human melanopsin gene therapy," can be read in PNAS.

Explore further: Gene therapy restores vision to mice with retinal degeneration

More information: Samantha R. De Silva el al., "Long-term restoration of visual function in end-stage retinal degeneration using subretinal human melanopsin gene therapy," PNAS (2017). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1701589114

Related Stories

Gene therapy restores vision to mice with retinal degeneration

October 16, 2008
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have used gene therapy to restore useful vision to mice with degeneration of the light-sensing retinal rods and cones, a common cause of human blindness. Their report, appearing ...

Light-responsive ligands activate retinal neurons to repair vision loss in blind mice

June 5, 2017
Retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, and other retinal diseases lead to the deterioration of photoreceptors, the light-sensing cells in the eye. Eventually, this deterioration progresses to vision loss. ...

New trial for blindness rewrites the genetic code

March 20, 2017
Researchers have started a new gene therapy clinical trial to treat X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), the most common cause of blindness in young people.

New stem cell approach for blindness successful in mice (w/ video)

January 8, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Blind mice can see again, after Oxford University researchers transplanted developing cells into their eyes and found they could re-form the entire light-sensitive layer of the retina. 

Stem cell therapy reverses blindness in animals with end-stage retinal degeneration

January 10, 2017
A stem cell-based transplantation approach that restores vision in blind mice moves closer to being tested in patients with end-stage retinal degeneration, according to a study published January 10 in Stem Cell Reports. The ...

JHU biologists identify new neural pathway in eyes that aids in vision

May 21, 2014
A type of retina cell plays a more critical role in vision than previously known, a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers has discovered.

Recommended for you

Autoimmune response drives vision loss in glaucoma

August 10, 2018
A research team from Massachusetts Eye and Ear and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has shown that immune cells in the eye that developed in response to early exposure to bacteria are a key contributor to progressive ...

Is too much screen time harming children's vision?

August 6, 2018
As children spend more time tethered to screens, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development. Ophthalmologists—physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care—are seeing a marked ...

Researchers chart a course for AI-aided diagnosis of degenerative eye conditions

August 1, 2018
A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins is leading the way in understanding how the advent of electronic medical records with large image databases and advances in artificial intelligence with deep learning can offer medical ...

Derivative of turmeric eye drops could treat glaucoma

July 24, 2018
A derivative of turmeric could be used in eye drops to treat the early stages of glaucoma, finds a new study led by UCL and Imperial College London researchers.

Researchers are one step closer to developing eye drops to treat age-related macular degeneration

July 19, 2018
Scientists at the University of Birmingham are one step closer to developing an eye drop that could revolutionise treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

An orange a day keeps macular degeneration away: 15-year study

July 12, 2018
A new study has shown that people who regularly eat oranges are less likely to develop macular degeneration than people who do not eat oranges.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.