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Protein found in algae improves patient’s vision

A new study reports optogenetic therapy helped a blind patient to locate, count and touch objects that he previously could not perceive

algae
Pixabay/Andrew Martin

New research published in Nature Medicine describes improvements in a patient’s vision through a combination of optogenetic therapy and light-stimulating goggles.

The therapy involved an injection of a viral vector encoding a light-sensitive protein found in algae, ChrimsonR, combined with light stimulation using engineered goggles.

The patient, who has retinitis pigmentosa, was able to perceive, locate, count and touch different objects using the vector-treated eye alone while wearing the goggles.

He was not able to perceive any objects before the injection with or without the goggles. After the injection, he was unable to detect objects without the goggles on.

“This is the first reported case of partial functional recovery in a neurodegenerative disease after optogenetic therapy,” the authors highlighted.

Professor José-Alain Sahel, of the University of Pittsburgh, Sorbonne University and the Institut de la Vision, highlighted: “Importantly, blind patients with different kinds of neurodegenerative photoreceptor disease and a functional optic nerve will potentially be eligible for the treatment.”

“However, it will take time until this therapy can be offered to patients,” Sahel added.