Goggles and gene therapy restore blind man’s vision [Video]

  • A 58-year old man who has genetic blindness was able to partially see objects in front of him using special goggles.
  • He was also injected with a virus that transforms normal cells into photoreceptors. 
  • The scientists who worked with the man have been looking for a cure for inherited blindness for 13 years. 

After 13 years of research, a team of scientists has partially restored the vision of a 58-year old man with genetic blindness.

The scientists built light-catching proteins in a single eyeball to allow the man to perceive the outline of some objects in a narrow field of view using special goggles. 

The results of the study were published in Nature Medicine on Monday.

While it’s still a long way off before the team can fully restore the vision of those with genetic blindness, the scientists’ small success shows a promising development in the future.

José-Alain Sahel, an ophthalmologist who worked on the study, told the New York Times: “It’s obviously not the end of the road, but it’s a major milestone.” 

Combining gene therapy and futuristic goggles

The treatment used a procedure called optogenetics, a gene therapy technique that was previously used to study how the brain works.

In the past, scientists have injected animals with viruses that can make normal cells respond to light. 

It was the first time that the technique was used to treat blindness. Sahel’s team had to ensure that enough light reached the eye for the optogenetic proteins to work, but not too much to prevent damaging the delicate retina.

To accomplish this, they worked with amber light and used gene therapy to create proteins that only receive amber light, then created goggles that can render the world into pulses of that type of light. 

The procedure allowed one participant to see partially

According to Nature Medicine, one volunteer who wore the goggles saw the stripes of a crosswalk, reach for a notebook that was on a table, and counting the number of tumblers set in front of him, without touching them. The volunteer had a blurry perception of the objects, and his vision was limited to a narrow field of view.

Several other volunteers were injected with the gene-bearing viruses to train them to use the goggles, but due to the pandemic, the project was put on pause.

But one volunteer who tried the goggles on his own for seven months saw results. When the lockdown ended in France, he went to the lab, and scientists confirmed that the goggles activated his brain’s visual cortex.

Sahel told the Times that they are planning to bring the other volunteers into the lab for training. 

Source: Yahoo News

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