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Saúde / 29/05/2021

HEALTH TECHNOLOGY

Scientists restore sight of blind patient with algae genes

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Scientists restore sight of blind patient with algae genes


After 40 years of blindness, a 58-year-old man can now see moving images and objects again thanks to an injection of photosensitive proteins into his retina.

By injecting the Parisian patient's eye with algae genes that encode light-sensitive proteins, the scientists were able to slowly restore his vision.

The man, diagnosed with a condition called retinitis pigmentosa at age 18, can now locate, identify and count objects again. People with retinitis pigmentosa carry defective genes that, due to many mutations, cause light-sensitive cells in the retina at the back of the eye to rupture, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

Study

The clinical trial, conducted by GenSight Biologics, based in Paris, enrolls people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP): a degenerative disease that kills the photoreceptor cells of the eye, which are the first step in the visual pathway.

The study was published this week in Nature Medicine and is the first successful clinical application of optogenetics, in which flashes of light are used to control gene expression and neuron firing.

The technique is widely used in laboratories to probe neural circuits and is being investigated as a potential treatment for pain, blindness and brain disorders.

In a healthy retina, photoreceptors detect light and send electrical signals to retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which then transmit the signal to the brain.

modified virus

GenSight's optogenetic therapy skips damaged photoreceptor cells entirely, using a virus to deliver light-sensitive bacterial proteins to RGCs, allowing them to detect images directly.

The researchers injected the virus into the eye of a man with RP and waited four months for protein production by the RGCs to stabilize before testing his vision.

José-Alain Sahel, an ophthalmologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania and study leader, says one of the challenges was to regulate the amount and type of light that entered the eye, because a healthy retina uses a variety of sensitive cells and proteins. to the light to see a wide range of light.

"No protein can replicate what the system can do," he says. Then, the researchers created a set of glasses that captured the visual information around the man and optimized it for detection by bacterial proteins.

Improvement

The tested patient cannot see without the glasses, but Sahel says that his vision has continued to improve in the two years since the injection.

Six other people were injected with the same light-sensitive proteins last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed testing with the goggles.

Sahel expects to see results in about a year..


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