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Gene editing could cure forms of blindness

Thursday 12 March 2020

A group of Scientists have successfully used a gene editing tool, labelled CRISPR – Cas9, inside a person’s body for the first time. The process has been described as a new development in allowing DNA operations to treat diseases.

Surgeons recently performed the revolutionary new procedure at the Casey Eye Institute, a department of the Oregon Health and Science University. The patient who had the procedure suffered from an inherited form of blindness.

It will take up to a month to see if the results are successful from the procedure. However, if proven to be promising, doctors plan to test on a further 18 patients, a sporadic mix of adults and children suffering from similar conditions.

Dr Jason Comander, an eye surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear stated, “It’s a new era in medicine… makes editing DNA much easier and much more effective.”

Massachusetts Eye and Ear is another hospital planning to provide the study with more patients.

This is not the first time DNA editing has been attempted. Back in 2017, doctors tried using a method known as ‘Zinc Fingers’, which had limited success. Regardless, many scientists believe that this new from of DNA alteration is a much better at cutting DNA in specific spots. This has created a heightened interest in this new research.

The CRISPR – Cas9 technique was used treat a condition known as, Leber congenital amaurosis, a gene mutation that prevents the body from making a protein needed in signals sent to the brain. These signals convert light into sight, which in turn then enables your vision.

There is a lot of scientific research and funding attributed to making this treatment a successful treatment method, with various hospitals and the Macular Society allocating research budgets towards progression.

Sources:

  1. Macular Society.
  2. The Guardian.
  3. IFL Science.

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