Gene and cell therapies are transformative innovations in science redefining what treatment means.
When it comes to turning the tables on the world’s biggest killers, developing breakthrough cancer killing treatments, or preventing blindness, these fast developing tools are key. In 2017, a European medical team demonstrated that gene therapy could transform the life of a young boy with serious skin damage that had destroyed 80% of his epidermis.
Now, scientists at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB) along with partners from the German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen, have pioneered a new therapeutic approach using gene therapy and near-infrared light, to tackle macular degeneration. The common eye disease affects 200 million worldwide, limiting sight in sufferers – or leading to complete blindness. In tests on human retinas, the researchers discovered that ‘near-infrared light exposures reactivated the human retina’s visual circuitry’.
“We believe that near-infrared stimulation is an important step towards providing useful vision to blind patients so that they can regain their ability to read or see faces,” said Daniel Hillier, head of the junior research group Visual Circuits and Repair at DPZ. “We want to give hope to blind people with these findings and will further intensify our research activities in this area here at DPZ within our main project, which focuses on the restoration of vision.”
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