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Gene Therapy Improves Vision in Patients with Congenital Retinal Disease
Date:4/27/2008

Patients' Vision Improved from Detecting Hand Movements to Reading Lines on Eye Chart

PHILADELPHIA, April 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a clinical trial at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, researchers from The University of Pennsylvania have used gene therapy to safely restore vision in three young adults with a rare form of congenital blindness. Although the patients have not achieved normal eyesight, the preliminary results set the stage for further studies of an innovative treatment for this and possibly other retinal diseases.

An international team led by The University of Pennsylvania, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Second University of Naples and the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine (both in Italy), and several other American institutions reported their findings today in an online article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is the first gene therapy trial for a nonlethal pediatric condition," said Albert M. Maguire, M.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a physician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Maguire, together with his wife, Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Ophthalmology at Penn and Senior Investigator at the F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology at Penn's Scheie Eye Institute, have been researching inherited retinal degenerations such as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), for 18 years. LCA is a group of inherited blinding diseases that damages light receptors in the retina. It usually begins stealing sight in early childhood and causes total blindness during a patient's twenties or thirties. Currently, there is no treatment for LCA.

"Patients' vision improved from detecting hand movements to reading lines on an eye chart," Maguire added. In 2001, Bennett and Maguire were part of a team which reported successfully reversing blindness using gene therapy on dogs affected by th
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; University ofPennsylvania
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