A 58-year-old blind man has been able to experience partial recovery of vision in one eye with the help of a breakthrough treatment using genetic engineering and light-activated therapy. The patient, who is based in France, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a neurodegenerative eye disease that affects the retina at the back of the eye and stops it from working, almost 40 years ago.
Several months after the treatment, he was was able to recognise, count, locate and touch different objects with the treated eye while wearing a pair of light-stimulating goggles.
The researchers said that while their findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, are still in its early stages, their work could be seen as a stepping stone for new targeted treatments for those with RP.
RP is a condition where the cells in the retina that are receptive to light are broken down which can lead to complete blindness. It is the most common inherited eye condition, affecting around one in 4,000 people in the UK.
There is no approved treatment for RP, except for a gene-replacement therapy that only works on an early-onset form of the disease. The researchers used a technique, known as optogenetics, to genetically alter cells in the retina so that they produce light-sensitive proteins called channelrhodopsins. The treatment, delivered using an injection in one eye, enabled gene coding for a channelrhodopsin protein called ChrimsonR, which senses amber light. (Metro)