British surgeons have successfully carried out a gene therapy operation to stop macular deterioration. A new trial being conducted at the Oxford Eye Hospital in the UK will check the safety of the procedure in 10 volunteer patients who have already lost some vision.
Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world, with nearly one per cent of the population affected by it. If successful, this treatment could have major implications for patients’ quality of life.
Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford who carried out the operation described the procedure as, “A genetic treatment administered early on to preserve the vision in patients who would otherwise lose their sight.”
“We’re harnessing the power of the virus, a naturally occurring organism, to deliver the DNA into the patient’s cells,” he said.
“When the virus opens up inside the retinal cell it releases the DNA of the gene we have cloned, and the cell starts making a protein that we think can modify the disease, correcting the imbalance of the inflammation caused by the complement system.”
If the trial proves successful, would you undergo such a procedure to save your eyesight?