UC Berkeley gene therapy helps blind mice gain sight, could be used to cure blindness
Drew Costley, SFGATE
Published9:28 am PDT, Sunday, March 17, 2019
A team of scientists at UC Berkeley used a breakthrough gene therapy to help blind mice gain sight, and some on the team think the same therapy could eventually be used to help cure blindness in humans.
A month after the team injected a gene for a green-light receptor into the eyes of blind mice, they showed signs of gaining sight, such as being able to identify and navigate around obstacles nearly as easily as mice without vision problems. The results of the study were published in Nature on March 15.
The once-blind mice who received the gene therapy were also able to detect motion and changes in brightness, recognize patterns, and see enough detail on an iPad to distinguish letters. The gene, called a medium wavelength cone opsin (MW-ospin rd1) and delivered by an inactivated virus that's injected into the eye, has the potential to restore vision enough to move around without assistance, read, or watch video.
"We actually think that within three years this could be in humans," said Ehud Isacoff, a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and one of the authors of the study, referring to how soon the treatment could be tested in clinical trials. "The only thing that needs to be done in order to achieve that at this point is to work out the details of the delivery mechanism of the gene."
This isn't the first time that gene therapy has been used to restore vision in subjects that were once blind, even by this team of scientists at Berkeley. In 2017, a team at University of Oxford showed that it was possible to restore vision in humans using gene therapy injected into the eyes. The same year, the UC Berkeley team used another form of gene therapy, delivered the same way but using a different gene, to help blind mice gain sight.
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