Scientists advance cure for blindness - 9jakam


Thursday, 21 February 2019

Scientists advance cure for blindness

Surgeons have attempted for the first time to halt a common form of blindness with a single injection of gene therapy .
A team from Oxford University has for the last 12 years been experimenting with gene therapies to slow or halt the progress of different eye conditions .
But until now most of the treatments they have carried out have been for relatively rare problems , such as choroideremia , which affects 1 , 200 people in Britain , and retinitis pigmentosa , which affects 16 , 000

Now the surgeons have launched their first attempt at halting age - related macular degeneration – known as AMD – which is the most common cause of blindness and affects 600 , 000 people in the United Kingdom (UK ).
The team is carrying out a trial of ten patients at Oxford Eye Hospital .
The small trial is mainly designed to test its safety – but in time it should give an indication of whether the treatment will work, in which case a much larger trial will be launched .
The first patient , Janet Osborne , 80 , who underwent the treatment under local anaesthetic last month , said the central vision in her left eye has deteriorated and is very hazy , making household tasks very difficult .
“ I still enjoy gardening with my husband , Nick , who grows a lot of vegetables, ” she told BBC News.
“ If I can keep peeling and cutting the veg , and retain my current level of independence , it would be absolutely wonderful . I wasn ’ t thinking of me.
“ I was thinking of other people. For me , I hope my sight doesn ’ t get any worse . That would be fantastic . It means I wouldn ’ t be such a nuisance to my family . ”Project leader Professor Robert MacLaren, whose trial is funded by gene therapy company Gyroscope Therapeutics, said : “AMD is the number one cause of untreatable blindness in the developed world .
“ A genetic treatment administered early on to preserve the vision in patients who would otherwise lose their sight would be a tremendous breakthrough and certainly something I hope to see in the near future . ”
The trial is focusing on dry AMD , which involves a slow deterioration of the cells at the back of the eye .
It affects the central part of a patient ’ s vision with gaps or ‘ smudges ’ , making everyday activities like reading and recognising faces difficult .
The operation involves detaching the retina and injecting a solution containing a virus underneath .
The virus contains a modified DNA sequence , which infects cells and corrects the genetic defect that causes AMD . Ideally if successful , gene therapy would only need to be performed once , as the effects are thought to be long - lasting .MacLaren said : “ We’ re harnessing the power of the virus , a naturally occurring organism , to deliver the DNA into the patient ’ s cells .
“ When the virus opens up inside the retinal cell it releases the DNA of the gene we have cloned, and the cell starts making a protein that we think can modify the disease , correcting the imbalance of the inflammation caused by the complement system .
“ The idea of this gene therapy is to ‘ deactivate ’ the complement system , but at a very specific point at the back of the eye , so the patient would otherwise be unaffected by it, and we hope that in future it will slow down the progression of macular degeneration . ”
Surgeons hope the current trial will show they can halt the progress of the condition and preserve what vision patients have remaining .
But in future they hope to trial it on patients with early AMD and so stop the disease before their vision has even started to deteriorate .
MacLaren said : “ I would hope that we ’ ll see a treatment for people with dry AMD within the next few years . ”Scientists advance cure for blindness

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