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A genetic shield: new technique protects optic nerve cells

Scientists have shown that a form of gene therapy preserves vision in a mouse model of glaucoma

Blue DNA

US scientists have highlighted the potential of gene therapy to protect optic nerve cells and preserve vision in a mouse model of glaucoma.

Reporting their findings in Cell, researchers showed that activating the CaMKII using gene therapy protected retinal ganglion cells.

Among mice that received gene therapy, 77% of retinal ganglion cells survived after one year compared to 8% of retinal ganglion cells in control mice.

Increasing retinal ganglion cell survival rates translated into a greater likelihood of preserved visual function.

Three visual-behavioural tests confirmed superior visual function in the mice treated with gene therapy.

Dr Bo Chen, an associate professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, highlighted the potential of the findings.

"If we make retinal ganglion cells more resistant and tolerant to the insults that cause cell death in glaucoma, they might be able to survive longer and maintain their function."