Gene therapy trial partially restores sight
A blind man regained some of his sight after a new treatment genetically modified his eye to produce light-sensitive algal protein.
This content was published on May 25, 2021 – 11:32
The technique, known as optogenetics, has been successfully tested in France with contributions from the Basel Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology (IOB), affiliated with the University of Basel.
Human retinal cells have been programmed to produce a protein called ChrimsonR, which is sensitive to light. The protein is naturally produced by algae to help them detect light.
The patient, who had been completely blind for two decades with a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, was first able to spot painted stripes on a crosswalk and then count the objects on a table.
“The results provide proof of concept that it is possible to use optogenetic therapy to partially restore vision,” said Botond Roska, founder of BIO.External link.
The results of the trial were first published in the journal Nature medicineExternal link. The trial was a collaboration between BIO, the University of Pittsburgh, the Paris Vision Institute, Streetlab and GenSight Biologics.
Around 115 researchers work at IOB, which is funded by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the University of Basel, the University Hospital Basel and the Canton of Basel.
While optogenetics has now been shown to be a viable treatment for blindness, the researchers cautioned that as the technique is new, its full potential has yet to be determined.