First patient to undergo optogenetic therapy hopes to restore sight

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A blind woman in Texas is the first person to undergo therapy based on an emerging technology called optogenetics. If successful, the therapy will create light-sensing cells in one of her eyes and enable her to see again.

This patient and others being recruited for a clinical trial have a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa. In this disease, the light-sensitive cells of the retina gradually die off. These cells pass electrical signals on to nerves that convey them to the brain.

The therapy uses optogenetics, a technology that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerves. The therapy should make certain nerve cells in the woman’s eye, called ganglion cells, light-sensitive. The eye was injected with viruses carrying DNA from light-sensitive algae. If it works, the cells will do what the healthy retina’s cones and rods do: fire off an electrical signal in response to light, restoring some vision.

Beyond the implications for treating blind people, this trial is also being watched by the neuroscience community. If it’s successful, it suggests that optogenetics has promise not just as a lab tool for studying the brain circuits that underlie diseases like Parkinson’s and schizophrenia, but also as a potential therapy for treating people afflicted with them.

Read full, original post: Texas Woman is the First Person to Undergo Optogenetic Therapy

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