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World’s First Attempt To Restore Sight Using Gene Therap

Officials have announced the completion of the world’s first eye operation using gene therapy. //A team of British doctors from Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London (UCL) carried out the operations in an attempt to cure a serious sight disorder- Leber's Congenital Amaurosis or LCA.

The group operated on 12 young adults with LCA, a type of inherited childhood blindness caused by a single abnormal gene.

Leber's Congenital Amaurosis is not a single specific disorder. It is the term used for a group of conditions that have in common, abnormality of retinal receptors, which result in severe vision impairment from birth.

Within the LCA group, genetic testing can now in some cases, identify which of more than six distinct genes has an error, but as yet this does not alter management. However gene therapy, with the goal of at least stabilizing any residual vision, may be a possibility in the not too distant future for the small number of children with the RPE65 genotype.

The condition prevents the retina from detecting light properly, resulting in progressive deterioration and severely impaired eyesight. There is no effective treatment as of now.

The new experimental procedure involved inserting normal copies of the faulty RPE65 gene into cells of the retina -the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye - using as a vehicle like a harmless virus or vector.

The doctors operated first on Robert Johnson, a UK man born with a sight disorder which means he can see very little at night, and which deteriorates with age. Yet, it will be several months before the researchers know whether their work has been a success.

The British doctors are working alongside Seattle, Washington-based biotech firm Targeted Genetics Corp., which made the vector being used in the Phase I/II trial.

This move into human testing follows 15 years of laboratory and animal experimentation, incl
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