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Clinical Trials To See The World In A Whole New Light: Gene Therapy For Blindness Initiated

Update Date: Mar 23, 2017 12:29 PM EDT

Oxford University has begun the clinical trials of gene therapy for blindness at the Oxford Eye Hospital. The Oxford Eye Hospital at the John Radcliffe Hospital successfully performed the gene therapy procedure on a 29-year old man.

The man selected to undergo the trial is suffering from X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP). This condition is hereditary and causes progressive blindness in boys and young men. The onset of the condition typically happens at around ages 10 to 30 and by 45 years old, most patients are already considered legally blind.

XLRP is one of the leading causes of blindness in young people. The condition is caused by the gene in charge of maintaining light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye, according to The Telegraph reported . The faulty gene does not have half of its DNA code and this state of the gene makes it unstable and cause complications to the eye.

In this ground-breaking gene therapy procedure the team of doctors and scientists from the National Health Service, Oxford University and Nightstar (a clinical trial stage company) were successful in inserting the missing DNA code into the pioneering patient, The Tribune reported. The genes were based on the recipient's DNA and were redeveloped in the laboratory. The missing genes were then introduced into the body by using a harmless virus. The virus cannot replicate but injects the DNA material to trigger a correction of the flawed gene of the recipient.

While the Oxford team led by Professor Robert McLaren is hopeful, the results of the gene therapy for blindness will not be known or evident until after a few years. The results will depend if and how the body of the recipient will respond to the gene therapy. The gene is very unstable in the retina which makes the results all the more unpredictable. This procedure is one of the Oxford Eye Hospital's many gene therapy projects to combat blindness.

The team reports that the first patient of the trial was already resting at home. They now hope to add more people to the degenerative disease to be able to gauge if the treatment is safe and effective.

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