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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Man can see after gene therapy

28th April 2008

Scientists at Moorfields Eye Hospital have significantly enhanced the eyesight of an 18-year-old man whose vision was deteriorating.


The operation carried out on Steven Howarth involved gene therapy which regenerated the failing cells in his right eye. It is only the third time the operation has been performed.

Mr Howarth has a condition called Leber's congenital amaurosis which meant he could not see in the dark and would have eventually gone blind. The condition is caused by a gene that makes the eye not function properly.

James Bainbridge, the consultant surgeon who carried out the operation, said: "It's hugely rewarding and exciting to see that this new treatment can have this impact on a person's quality of life."

Doctors were able to inject fluid containing the "missing gene within a modified virus into the eye". This caused the retina to become detached and cells in the pigment layer absorbed the fluid. The virus infected the cells and provided the gene which is necessary for regular vision.

A few months later, doctors tested Mr Howarth to find out if the treatment had worked and he was able to navigate a poorly-lit maze with confidence.

Professor Robin Ali, of the Institute for Ophthalmology, who led the trial, said: "To get this indication after only three patients is hugely exciting."

"I find it difficult to remember being as excited as I am today about our science and what it might achieve."


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