Gene Therapy Reverses Vision Loss in Primates

Gene Therapy Reverses Vision Loss in Primates

June 19, 2023

Scientists have achieved a breakthrough in gene therapy, demonstrating its potential to reverse vision loss in primates and paving the way for potential treatments in humans. A collaborative team from Harvard Medical School and Life Biosciences successfully reprogrammed genetic markers using a new approach in preclinical studies, restoring visual function in primates with laser-induced eye damage.

The team utilized special chemicals injected into the primates' eyes, partially reprogramming cells to a more youthful state. This innovative technique showed promising results in restoring vision, akin to something out of the movie "Blade Runner," though further research is needed to validate these findings.

The study involved ten primates, with six receiving the new gene therapy and four acting as a control group. Over the course of five weeks, the primates who received the treatment displayed significantly improved responses to light stimulation and notable enhancements in the health of their eyes' nerve fibers, indicating restored vision.

The primary objective of this research was to address non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a vision disorder comparable to an eye-specific stroke that leads to sudden vision loss.

Bruce Ksander, the study's co-lead and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard, stated that NAION currently lacks an effective treatment. However, the new gene therapy demonstrated the potential for significant recovery in visual function in a primate model of NAION.

Ksander further emphasized the broader implications of this breakthrough, stating that the therapy opens possibilities for cellular rejuvenation not only in NAION but also in other age-related ophthalmic diseases resulting from retinal ganglion cell dysfunction.

While it remains a long journey to determine the effectiveness of a similar approach in humans, as the researchers' results are yet to be published and peer-reviewed, this development marks an encouraging initial step.

Sharon Rosenzweig-Lipson, the chief scientific officer of Life Biosciences, highlighted the significance of this approach beyond NAION and the field of vision, expressing enthusiasm about the potential for their scientific platform to address age-related diseases and restore human health.

The results of this groundbreaking study provide optimism and momentum for further advancements in the field of gene therapy and its potential application in treating various age-related visual disorders.

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