New hope for patients fighting blindness

New hope for patients fighting blindness

There is new hope for patients fighting Retinitis Pigmentosa after scientists successfully replaced damaged nerve cells in the eyes of mice.

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Patient 'grateful' after gene therapy improves eyesight

Jonathan Wyatt, who has a rare inherited eye disease, is one of the participants of a landmark gene therapy to treat blindness.

The 65-year-old barrister said learning he was going blind was a "sledgehammer blow" but there has been "substantial improvement" in his left eye which was treated as part of the trial.

The technique works by replacing a defective gene in the eye Credit: The Lancet

"Now when I watch a football match on the TV, if I look at the screen with my left eye alone, it is as if someone has switched on the floodlights. The green of the pitch is brighter, and the numbers on the shirts are much clearer.

"I am extremely grateful to Professor MacLaren and his splendid team for all the care I received as a “guinea pig” in this groundbreaking research".

Read: Groundbreaking gene therapy restores vision to two men

Professor 'did not expect' dramatic visual improvement

Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the gene therapy operations at Oxford Eye Hospital, said his team are "absolutely delighted" with the results so far.

It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case.

In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity and so we contacted both patients' home opticians to get current and historical data on their vision in former years, long before the gene therapy trial started.

These readings confirmed exactly what we had seen in our study and provided an independent verification.

Preliminary results from the first six patients taking part in a Phase One trial surprised the Oxford University team.

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Oxford University 'delighted' over gene therapy results

Preliminary results from the first six patients taking part in a Phase One trial surprised and delighted the Oxford University team.

Although the trial was only designed to test safety and dosages, two men with relatively advanced disease experienced dramatic improvements to their eyesight.

The Oxford University team are delighted with the results. Credit: ITV News

The researchers are now planning a larger Phase II trial that will focus on the therapy's effectiveness.

Groundbreaking gene therapy restores vision to two men

Groundbreaking gene therapy has restored vision to two men with a rare inherited eye disease who were expected to go blind.

Now, scientists hope early intervention with the surgical treatment will halt progression of the devastating disorder, choroideremia, before patients are robbed of their sight.

Professor Robert MacLaren performing the operation on one of the patients.

It is the first time gene therapy has successfully been applied to the light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina, the digital camera at the back of the eye.

Read: Groundbreaking gene therapy restores vision to two men

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