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Gene Therapy Offers Hope for Reversing Blindness

A new treatment under development is delivering long-term improvements in the vision of patients who would have otherwise gone blind. It requires a one-time office visit – no drugs, refills, and most importantly, no invasive surgeries. The treatment is a form of gene therapy and was so effective in its initial trials that even more trials, geared toward more common forms of blindness, are slated to begin next year. Village Eyecare, eye doctors in Chicago, want to keep our patients informed of such breakthroughs in treatment.

A shot in the dark

To help the cells regenerate, a working copy of a functioning gene is injected into the eye to supplement a faulty gene and stimulate regeneration.  Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study involved 14 patients in the U.K. and another 18 in Canada, the U.S., and Germany over the past four years.

The promising results

Studies on gene therapy conducted by Oxford University focused on a rare disorder, choroideremia, which affects the light detecting cells in the back of the eye, resulting in gradual sight loss. The amazing results:  Degeneration was halted and vision improved, all after only a single treatment!

A smoother road ahead

Subjects interviewed following the study were understandably thrilled about the treatment’s results and its impact on their quality of life.  Joe Pepper, a 24-year old history teacher, was forced to give up the sport of cricket years earlier because of failing eyesight.  With the specter of his impending blindness threatening to further impact his daily activities, the treatment gave him a new lease on life.  A 46-year old IT professional named Wayne Johnson expressed his delight at finally being able to see the stars. Jonathan Wyatt, a 68-year old retired lawyer, echoed these sentiments, stating “it has opened a new chapter of my life for me when I thought that the book was about to close.”

Fixing what’s broken

The promising results of gene therapy are offering new hope for those suffering from eye disorders that can lead to blindness. Hope for the possibility of a widely available, viable treatment option, and hope that the new therapy will not only halt, but very possibly reverse and correct the gene defects that lead to blindness in the first place.

Treatment availability timetables

If the next phase of larger clinical trials goes as well as anticipated, gene therapy should be licensed and available in three years. In the meantime, new trials for more common forms of blindness are being developed and are scheduled to begin next year, with the next wave upcoming studies: Macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, which unlike choroideremia, involve defects in multiple genes.

At Village Eyecare, our highly trained team of eye doctors in Chicago, have the tools and experience to diagnose and treat any eye condition. See things in a new light. Contact Village Eyecare today.

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2017-05-11T12:53:07-05:00