Treating blindness with gene therapy

Blindness is a concept many of us are familiar with, although few of us can truly state that we understand what the condition is like. I’ve never been affected by blindness, and I sincerely wish I never am. It is something I wouldn’t want happening to anyone, really, for that matter.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of success in terms of curing blindness. There are treatments that have been developed that can potentially alleviate the severity of blindness in a given person, but it is rare to hear of someone who has been fortunate enough to have their vision entirely restored.

But, I do have some feel-good information to share with all of you on this topic. According to an article from The Good News Network, a young Canadian boy named Sam has had some luck with his treating his blindness.

“Sam suffers from the rare disorder retinitis pigmentosa, a form of progressive blindness caused by genetic retinal degeneration that results from mutations in the RPE65 gene.

“Sam’s sight was extremely limited, especially at night. Images most people take for granted—the stars, an airplane streaking across the sky, or even our own shoes—were beyond the scope of his vision. Until recently, there was no effective treatment for his condition.

“Now, however, thanks to a new form of gene therapy, many patients, including Sam, are seeing huge improvements in their eyesight. The science behind the protocol is impressive.

“After being modified with a healthy copy of the gene, an inactivated virus is injected directly into the retina. (Each eye is injected only once.) The healthy gene then goes to work, enabling cells to produce a protein that converts light into electrical signals, which in turn, facilitates improved vision and prevents further progression of the disease.

“The targeted gene therapy protocol, developed in the U.S., was recently green-lit for use in Canada, but with Sam’s sight failing, he and his mom, Sarah Banon, traveled to America last year to get him treatment.

“Within a week’s time, Banon began to notice progress and says Sam’s condition has continued to improve over the course of the year since he underwent the procedure,” the article explains.

I’m no medical expert, and while this treatment may not necessarily cure blindness, I think what it had done for Sam is a source of hope for anyone impacted by this condition.

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