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Golden touch: light scalpel could open up alternative gene therapy approach

Scientists have trialled using gold nanoparticles to make a tiny incision in retinal cells enabling the delivery of genes or medication

Eye and laser

Researchers are investigating the potential of combining gold nanoparticles with a short pulse laser as an alternative to using viral vectors in gene therapy.

Describing the technique in Nano Letters, the authors highlight that the technology may be harnessed in the future to provide cell-specific therapies for retinal degenerative diseases.

“This system provides a novel, non-viral-based approach that has the potential to selectively target retinal cells in diseased regions while sparing healthy areas,” they explained.

The approach involves using nanoparticles, which function as ‘nanolenses’ to concentrate the light produced by a femtosecond laser and make a tiny incision.

In vivo experiments effectively produced small holes in retinal ganglion cells without causing cell death.

The scientists have filed a patent application for the technology in the US.