Health News: Genetic Modification for Eye Disease

Posted by Madhu Singh on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 @ 08:01 AM

From designer babies to cloning, our fascination with the human genome knows no bounds. There is an ethical dichotomy surrounding CRISPR DNA editing, but most ODs can agree that blindness should be prevented if it is possible.

After 30 years of genetic research, two doctors created and tested prevention for a type of congenital blindness in 2019. We wanted to discuss how this gene therapy breakthrough might be causing ripples in eyecare and why you might share the information with patients.

The Virus That Treats Blindness

The Breakthrough

Gene therapy usually can only fix a single gene, which means it can help people with specific and rare forms of blindness for a high cost (roughly $425,000). Doctors inject RPE65 under the retina of children with Leber's congenital amaurosis. This safe virus helped restore the majority of vision for the children without detrimental side effects. So far, so good. However, longitudinal studies need to be conducting to monitor changes in this virus over time.

The Effects

This research might inform more treatments for one of the most common diseases affecting aging people, macular degeneration, as well as other prominent retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa. With the upcoming CRISPR technology, it's possible that gene mutation editing will become a reality for blindness.

We encourage you to share these discoveries in eye health with your patients because it's interesting, relevant for patients who have retinal diseases, and sets your practice apart from other routine eye exams they might have had. You can print out the research for your waiting area, email it out in a content newsletter, include it in patient recall emails, or even share this post on social media. 


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