Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Gene Therapy Restores Sight To Blind

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the falling-scales dept.

Biotech 157

An anonymous reader writes "Looks like we have found a cure for genetic blindness (clinical trialabstractpaper [PDF] — ABC News video). This gene therapy treatment increases both cone and rod photoreceptor-based vision. These engineered viruses are implanted to do our bidding to restore vision. Clinical trials on 6 children and young people proved the therapy and didn't find any notable side effects." Any blind person, especially any adapted and competent one, who wants to gain the sense of sight would be well advised to study Oliver Sachs's classic piece "To See and Not See."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

um... (2, Funny)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082152)

Any blind person, especially any adapted and competent one, who wants to gain the sense of sight would be well advised to study Oliver Sachs's classic piece "To See and Not See."

How?

Re:um... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082166)

I think OP means Oliver Sacks.

Re:um... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082182)

Ten "gets it" points for you, and a "whoosh" for the other guy. :)

Re:um... (1)

edittard (805475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083120)

Then shouldn't you be asking "who?"? Seriously, it's in the second line of the linked article and the submitter still got it wrong. What a mong.

Re:um... (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082172)

Braille? Text to speech? Any one of the other multitude of ways that visually impaired people deal with daily to get through life meant for people with vision?

Not to be blunt, but seriously...

Re:um... (1)

Helen Keller (842669) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083220)

GnnmehclodnggggSACKS.

Re:um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082244)

screen reader software....

Re:um... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082400)

Jesus did that 2000 years ago. And you can be cured if you believe in HIM. We don't need any genes if we have Jesus.

Re:um... (0, Flamebait)

tom17 (659054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083354)

All praise Genebus!

Re:um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082454)

aoenuthanoetuh

Re:um... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082520)

> How?

The same way any blind person would read /.

Re:um... (5, Funny)

edittard (805475) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083244)

Blind people don't read slashdot. They edit it.

Re:um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082522)

braille... audio tapes.. someone reading it to them.

the blind are well able.

I see I see.... (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082160)

"I see! I see!!" said the blind man, but everyone knew he was full of shit.

Until now when he CAN actually say it and follow it up with high fives to everyone.

Every time I get cranky about all the dumb shit that we do in this day and age, I also think about all the cool and fantastic things we can do. It's a funny balance.

Re:I see I see.... (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082770)

"'Pazhyviom, uvidim', kak skazal slepoy."

A couple of cow orkers of mine say this Russian line all the time. Sadly, it doesn't sound as good in English: "we'll live ( = let's wait), we'll see, as said the blind guy".

From the Blind Man (1)

quagi (1702572) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082168)

I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.

Seems like an approach to tackle color blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082190)

For personal reasons, I'm very curious to see how this technology turns out. Hopefully it will be applied more broadly.

Re:Seems like an approach to tackle color blindnes (2, Informative)

slashchuck (617840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083360)

From the Abstract it seems this study was reported on July, 2008. Where is the follow up?

Myopia (2, Interesting)

mxh83 (1607017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082200)

Could this apply to myopia too? Could it be an option to LASIK?

Re:Myopia (3, Informative)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082436)

I wish, but ...

When the rods/cones exist in the retina, and the nervous system connections to the brain, but the photo-chemical pathways inside the rods/cones are blocked, this therapy unblocks the chemical error, letting the other components work.

For myopics the damage is different. Our eyeballs are not spherical, so the lens and cornea, matched to a spherical retina surface cannot focus incoming light "incorrectly" onto our distorted retinas. our best bet is still prosthetic. Although the cornea can be hacked up to make some correction, it is not really the issue (it is for astigmatism). What we need are lenses designed for non-spherical retinas. This can emulated by glasses/contacts, but the real solution would be corrective lens implants.

Current materials are not as flexible as natural lenses, so cannot be complete replacements. However, lenses can be shaped for accurate vision at longer than reading distances, or within reading-to-desktop range. As we get older and cataracts appear, there is a stronger justification to replace the lenses, and many older adults no longer have to wear glasses due to replacement lenses. I'm really hoping that by the time I get to replacement, the materials will have been improved so that I can not only stop wearing contacts, but get rid of the reading glasses, too.

Re:Myopia (1)

Alphathon (1634555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082530)

Aren't reading glasses for older people usually needed because of weakening muscles that control the lens? If that is the case, then no replacement lens would provide permanent relief from reading glasses (your ability to focus would continue to decrease after the replacement lens was fitted). I may be missing something though; I'm not exactly an expert on the eye.

Re:Myopia (5, Interesting)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082698)

There's a "design flaw" in the lens. Unlike bones, that have cells that both remove and replace bone, the lenses only have cells that smooth the surface by adding more material. After a few decades, the lens is too thick to be stretched for close focus, so we lose that ability, although distance vision may still be as good as when young.

Some people can tolerate a pair of replacement lenses, one near-focusable for reading and one far-focusable, between them covering the full range of vision. IIRC, the dominant eye is close-focusable. Contacts are available in the same arrangement, but, again, not everyone can tolerate them.

Re:Myopia (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082816)

Trust me, there's a big difference between a medical cure existing and actually becoming available to the average Joe. It'll be DECADES at least before this is available, to all but a few people who happen to have the perfect profile and know one of the researchers. Laser eye surgery is largely proven and dependable, and available here and now, so you're much better off just going with that.

Re:Myopia (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083366)

There's also the fact that anything involving injecting genetically engineered viruses into your eyes tends to get a little extra scrutiny.

Surgery, while ever so slightly barbaric(especially in places that you have to break bones to get to) has the advantage of being mostly predictable. The risks aren't zero, and some people heal better than others; but it is basically moving meat around.

Genetic modification, even when the germline isn't involved, is less well behaved. Sometimes it works, sometimes exotic cancer develops.

coloublind (2, Interesting)

retech (1228598) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082214)

I'd do it for colourblindness.

"...if only you could see what I've seen with your eyes!"

Re:coloublind (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082274)

I agree. I can hardly see into the ultraviolet and infared and I would love to be able to see microwaves...

Re:coloublind (3, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082330)

Interestingly enough, the acrylic lenses used in cataract lens replacement therapy are a bit more transmissive in the infra red than the ones you are born with.

I haven't noticed much improvement along those lines (I haven't done any empirical studies myself) although my night vision is superb compared with how it was at any time prior to the surgery.

Re:coloublind (3, Informative)

Kesch (943326) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082350)

Are you sure it is infrared? I had heard that loss of your lens let you see further into ultraviolet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphakia).

Re:coloublind (3, Informative)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082340)

Well if I recall correctly the military tried doing something like this(sans gene therapy) with fighter pilots during WWII. There was a research project to administer fighter pilots a chemical that would make their eyes sensitive to infrared light(night vision infrared not thermal infrared) so they would be better adapted to fighting at night. I don't think much became of it though. Now the only problem with doing this with gene therapy is the effects would be permanent.

Re:coloublind (4, Informative)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082378)

ttp://www.livescience.com/history/090429-military-experiment-1.html

The U.S. Navy wanted to boost sailors' night vision so they could spot infrared signal lights during World War II. However, infrared wavelengths are normally beyond the sensitivity of human eyes. Scientists knew vitamin A contained part of a specialized light-sensitive molecule in the eye's receptors, and wondered if an alternate form of vitamin A could promote different light sensitivity in the eye. They fed volunteers supplements made from the livers of walleyed pikes, and the volunteers' vision began changing over several months to extend into the infrared region. Such early success went down the drain after other researchers developed an electronic snooperscope to see infrared, and the human study was abandoned. Other nations also played with vitamin A during World War II - Japan fed its pilots a preparation that boosted vitamin A absorption, and saw their night vision improve by 100 percent in some cases.

Re:coloublind (1)

norpy (1277318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082424)

I was always told that this was a propaganda campaign fed to ze germans to cover up the fact that we had developed radar to see at night.

Re:coloublind (3, Informative)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082892)

Well, it definitely was in Britain, when the cavity magnetron was put into use in night-fighters. It provided the first centimetric radar, capable of detecting fighters and even breached submarine periscopes, while being small enough to mount in a fighter. To explain the sudden increase in the nocturnal accuracy of the RAF, the old "carrots help you see in the dark" myth was spun, which had the added benefit of encouraging children to eat healthy food.

Re:coloublind (2, Interesting)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083252)

which had the added benefit of encouraging children to eat healthy food

And, incidentally, food you could get with rationing.

Re:coloublind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083554)

Now the only problem with doing this with gene therapy is the effects would be permanent.

No problem! We'll just make another virus to cure your deliberate color blindness (enhancement) !

Everay boday happaaay.

Re:coloublind (2, Interesting)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083850)

Chlorophyll eye drops help night vision: Article here [discovermagazine.com] .

Re:coloublind (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082402)

I'd love to take the colour markers from Eagle's DNA. They have 10 instead of the pitiful 2 for a human male. No doubt they can see deep into the non visual spectrum.

Re:coloublind (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083754)

It seems like your post would be clearer if you threw a human in there.

For the eagles, if they can see it, it doesn't seem fair to call it non visual.

Re:coloublind (3, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082824)

I would love to be able to see microwaves...

Kitchen tours. $10 a pop. Kids unwelcome.

Re:coloublind (1)

English French Man (1220122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082880)

Actually, treating coulourblindness could be achievable, adding completely new receptors would be not be possible... Genetic engineering is able to take genetic material from a source and give it to a target, but is not actually able (yet) to completely invent a new organ or type of cell, or even a new photoreceptor molecule... You need to completely control the whole chain of events that leads to this new structure, and this is not achievable with today's science.

Re:coloublind (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082910)

But there were tricks like using genes from glow-worms to make cells in other organisms glow. Then I wondered if you could do this with neurons. Make them glow when they change state and use the emitted photons to record the information flow.

Maybe you could find a way for photoreceptors to directly sense magnetic fields by embedding little chunks of magnetite in them, then feed data in to it with an AC field.

Re:coloublind (1)

English French Man (1220122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083332)

Tricks like that will be very hard to pull. I am not an expert on that field, but it seems a little too far-fetched :)

And a person will not see a fourth primary colour, but it would extend the spectrum of an existing one (red, green or blue), which may be very useful for some. I would prefer a totally new photoreceptor for myself.

I have to admit, this would be cool, because it couldn't be localized precisely on the retina when scientists first try it, so you would have glow-in-the-dark eyes. Science is way cool!

Re:coloublind (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083406)

Working on it [singularityhub.com] (no, not me personally; but the collective "we" are).

Not only does the concept work, mice with fiber lines coupled directly to their brain, complete with a slightly sinister blue glow coming out of their skulls, look utterly badass...

Re:coloublind (1)

noob22 (1749444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082426)

I wish I would stop confusing gray and red for green... It's too bad they will only do this for people who can't see at all. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to look at the beautiful purple sunset or something like that... realistically I'd have a few dollars but still. Only fellow colorblind folks will understand.

As would I ( partially colorblind here ) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083436)

"I'd do it for colourblindness." - by retech (1228598) on Tuesday May 04, @02:46AM (#32082214)

I would as well (and, for how crappy my eyes have become (to the point I require bi-focal glasses (though I don't use those here, I just take off my specs to read is all)))...

I would also do so, for color blindness, like you mention (I.E.-> I have difficulties with shades of dark green, and red, AND some colors of dark navy blue and dark purple, plus some shades of yellow an LIGHT green as well)).

It caused me hassles in highschool electronics class, where I was batting off A's on tests, but when it came to labs, stuff went on fire once (smoking actually) & it got me into trouble.

At the principle's office, they asked me why I was doing stupid stuff like that, and I told them I didn't mean to...

The teacher told my principal I was a good student, and interested and participated like MAD in the theory sections for tests too. They then got wise & put me on a lantern test...

Sure enough, color blind too here (lol, when the Good Lord handed out eyes, I got the bottom-of-the-barrell (hey, @ least they're blue though, lol!)).

Anyhow/anyways:

Were I to have this done, I suppose I'd finally see what I've been missing (and, the ONLY reason I am not an Electrical Engineer, is because of it - this is the "how/why" of why I got into Computer Science instead, closest thing I could do to get into the field of electronics was this I figured)...

Now - the only part I'd miss, is that camoflage doesn't work vs. how I see (so I've heard) & apparently, the military uses folks with my eyesight type to "walk point" & spot hidden enemy bunkers etc. et al (of course, by walking point, I'd imagine you'd take the 1st bullets too). For example, there's "lantern tests" (dots with numbers in them etc.) that only a color blind person can see, whereas a normal color sighted person, cannot.

APK

P.S.=> Heh, additionally? I loved your reference to this:

"Chu - ...if only you could see what I've seen with your eyes!" - ROY BATTY, from "Blade Runner"

Of course, my FAV. quote from that excellent classic Sci-Fi film, would be near the ending when Roy Batty dies, and respects ALL life and saves Decker (Harrison Ford) from death, rather than kill him (even though Decker was the blade runner unit assigned to "retire the skinjob" named Roy Batty):

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I've attacked ships on fire, off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." - ROY BATTY, from "Blade Runner"... apk

So, what about the other eye? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082220)

Are they going to give these people TWO sighted eyes?

Blindness (4, Interesting)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082224)

Losing sight has always been my greatest fear. I understand a lot of blind people can live perfectly fine lives, but I can't think of many worse futures. (I know the news are about genetic blindness, but still).

The day someone comes up with a way of completely bypassing the eyes, for example by perfecting the technology of connecting cameras directly to the brain, will feel as important for me as the day someone finds a way of curing all medular wounds.

It may sound stupid but one of the few reasons I've got for accumulating more money is being able to pay the medicine I hope will exist by the time my body starts failing in those kind of ways.

Re:Blindness (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082292)

Dont be stupid, you dont need to worry about such things!

God created faith healing for a reason!

Praise the Lord Hallelujah! Walk the righteous path and go with Jesus for he is your one true savior!

Re:Blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083710)

And for those things that God doesn't see fit to cure, Obama has promises access to medical care for all! I'm certain that means everyone has equal access to the most state of the art medical care.

Re:Blindness (4, Insightful)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082346)

Losing sight has always been my greatest fear. I understand a lot of blind people can live perfectly fine lives, but I can't think of many worse futures

Agree wholeheartedly. I was blind for a year, and was cured. Once you lose your sight you would crawl through broken glass if it meant you could get your eyesight back.

I can see my wife's face, and my daughters are beautiful. Bring on science.

Re:Blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082364)

Agree wholeheartedly. I was blind for a year, and was cured.

How did you go blind? Chemical exposure?

Re:Blindness (4, Funny)

spooje (582773) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082638)

I'm guessing it was chronic masturbation.

Re:Blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082670)

I can tell you from experience that that isn't t--oh wait... that explains the vision problems. Hmmm.

Re:Blindness (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083370)

Man, I'm screwed.

Re:Blindness (5, Funny)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082410)

Easy for you to say, my wife's got the face of a saint - a Saint Bernard.

Re:Blindness (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082398)

Losing sight has always been my greatest fear. I understand a lot of blind people can live perfectly fine lives, but I can't think of many worse futures.

Interestingly, my biggest worry if I lost sight would be to figure out how to successfully use my synthesizers. I've made music for fun since my teens, and if I had to choose I'd probably rather be blind than deaf. Not that either option is in any way desirable, but still...

Re:Blindness (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083188)

are you sure about that though? think of how more impractical things are being blind then deaf.

want to cross the road? if you deaf, no worries just look both ways. if your blind, your fucked unless you are lucky enough to find one of those beeping crossings, but then again, your blind so how do you find one? you can also drive a car if your deaf, but your completely boned if your blind.

Re:Blindness (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083698)

But if my life was making music, i'd take blind. I get that.
Yes, personally, much as I love my music, i'd have to take deafness :( , I love my driving more.

Tom...

Re:Blindness (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082430)

Losing sight has always been my greatest fear.

Don't underestimate deafness. Allegedly it's worse than blindness.

Re:Blindness (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082554)

> It may sound stupid but one of the few reasons I've got for accumulating more
> money is being able to pay the medicine I hope will exist by the time my body
> starts failing in those kind of ways.

Hehe, your post reminded me the movie "The Island".

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0399201/ [imdb.com]

Re:Blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082728)

The day someone comes up with a way of completely bypassing the eyes, for example by perfecting the technology of connecting cameras directly to the brain, will feel as important for me as the day someone finds a way of curing all medular wounds.

We're getting there. Recently, a method was developed for a soldier to 'see' through his tongue.
a soldier to 'see' through his tongue. [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Blindness (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083170)

Good news, the cure has been discovered for the ailments of old age! This miracle cure, death, is also very affordable. Of course for those of you with extra money, the imminent Japanese camera-vision system for looking up skirts will allow you to meliorate your suffering.

Old news? (1)

tackledingleberry (1109949) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082226)

The clinical trial and abstract are from 2008 and the pdf is of a paper published in 2005... this is 2010.

Re:Old news? (2, Insightful)

I kan Spl (614759) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082266)

It seems that you do not appreciate how long it takes to do real research.

Re:Old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082370)

Bullshit! I'm going to invent my flying car... TOMORROW!

There were notable side affects (3, Insightful)

^switch (65845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082236)

"All three patients showed a statistically significant increase in visual sensitivity at 30 days after treatment localized to retinal areas that had received the vector."

Well, one notable side-affect of the virus was improved vision.

Re:There were notable side affects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082380)

I would not call that a "side-effect" - I'd call that an "intended outcome". A side-effect is something that is NOT an intended outcome.

Re:There were notable side affects (3, Funny)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082552)

Better peripheral vision = Side effect!?

Here is some more recent work (5, Informative)

ZuchinniOne (1617763) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082276)

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/colortherapy/ [wired.com]

I have a feeling this will be up for a Nobel Prize. It was seriously groundbreaking work and the entire vision science community is excited about it.

Rogue-like game for the blind (4, Insightful)

EvilDingo (1803734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082294)

My children might have an incurable genetic blindness (we haven't tested them) that causes progressive blindness. After researching a bit, I found that the blind and visually impaired can use computers quite well with screen readers, but there wasn't a lot of accessible software -- especially games. http://www.audio-games.net/ [audio-games.net] was a great resource and helped me design an accessible audio-RPG called Entombed. http://www.blind-games.com/ [blind-games.com] - Full disclaimer: my site. I think the biggest hurdle (obvious from reading some of these comments) is that there isn't a lot of awareness that the blind can navigate and use computers.

Re:Rogue-like game for the blind (1)

mick232 (1610795) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082582)

There should be plenty of games available from a time when computers were not able to display graphics. Those text-based games sometimes feature much more elaborate storylines than today's games. I think you could probably play them using braille lines or similar devices.

Then and now (2, Interesting)

Mr2001 (90979) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083020)

People are still making [ifwiki.org] plenty of text games, even more elaborate than the ones from the 80s (thanks to increased memory capacity, better tools, and evolving expectations). And indeed, they're popular with blind players who use screen readers.

Re:Rogue-like game for the blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082798)

"I think the biggest hurdle (obvious from reading some of these comments) is that there isn't a lot of awareness that the blind can navigate and use computers."

What gets under my skin are developers who use non native widget sets. If it wasn't bad enough for sighted users who have to bear with the inconsistent (and often ugly) UI and custom keyboard shortcuts in almost all cases it makes the software useless for people with disabilities, the only exception being Firefox XUL and Java Swing, because they were developed with accessibility in mind (but they're still butt ugly and deliver bad user experience).

Re:Rogue-like game for the blind (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083270)

Have you ever found any MUD clients with built in text-to-speach?
some things might happen too fast to be spoken.Not sure.

Re:Rogue-like game for the blind (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083372)

Software like JAWS makes computing for blind people very, very easy. It's just sad that operating systems do not provide the level of accessibility that this program has, especially considering that JAWS itself is quite expensive (unless one gets it from an organization or group at a discounted price).

There are also braille readers that have internet access and can "display" web pages. I've never played with one of those, but I did play with a braille reader and thought it was pretty neat stuff.

wrong paper (4, Informative)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082326)

after a quick look at the paper linked in the article (Identifying photoreceptors in blind eyes caused by RPE65 mutations: Prerequisite for human gene therapy success), it is clearly not about gene therapy in humans. it is a study of the thickness of the retina in humans homozygous for a mutation in a specific retinal gene. as the title says, it is a prerequisite for gene therapy.

the actual paper, Human gene therapy for RPE65 isomerase deficiency activates the retinoid cycle of vision but with slow rod kinetics, can be found here [pnas.org] . It concerns the same gene, incidentally.

Oblig... (4, Funny)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082334)

Nothing to see here move along..... wait a second...

Re:Oblig... (1)

Mathness (145187) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083580)

Like Klingon opera, the Braille version is funnier. :P

IR vision (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082336)

I took a high-level bio class at UC Berkeley this past semester that concerned exactly this type of genetic therapy. someone brought up the idea of doing this to normals with the pit viper IR heat-sensitive ionic channel gene, tie it to some downstream color of choice.

sign me up.

Going blind sucks, I should know... (5, Insightful)

frank_carmody (1551463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082388)

I have retinitis pigmentosa which affects me in a number of different ways. At the moment it's the night blindness that's the most problematic. But as the disease is a degenerative one and as there's no way to predict (or even give a rough estimate of) the time when I will be fully blind, not a day goes past when I don't think of what it will be like to be completely in the dark. I read these stories all the time and they're all like stories on holographic storage tech: Just 5-10 more years and it'll be here for me to enjoy...

Re:Going blind sucks, I should know... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082742)

Me too. I was diagnosed 25 years ago, with a predicted 10 years before I would be completely blind. The disintegration has actually been a bit slower.

Lots of things I can't do, but it doesn't hurt, and it really doesn't make life that difficult.

The only problem I have at all is when I walk in to people by accident. One one occasion, I was accused of being on drugs, and on a couple of occasions (spilling a pint in a pub, for example), people have been pretty rude and wanted to start a fight.

Honestly, without the intolerance from people, it is perfectly easy to cope. Never use your condition as an excuse, and good luck.

Re:Going blind sucks, I should know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083202)

Same for me. Got diagnosed maybe 20 years ago myself - always been night blind. As for the peripheral field, I've never so much noticed it reduce - you adapt to whatever you see.

My problem is crowded buses - my central vision is still fortunately very sharp - its just only 10 degrees. So having complex obstacles on both sides of you can be tricky to negotiate. Just gotta take it slow.

Another ABC News 'Miracle' (2, Insightful)

2phar (137027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082394)

As usual, ABC News reaches for the M word. Nothing supernatural.. more like many years of painstaking and brilliant science.

new song (-1, Offtopic)

upyourshomo (1803732) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082414)

Hey guys, just wrote a new song, check it out!
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm gonna stick my dick in your mouuuuuth"
Whaddya think, guys?

To see or not see (1)

X10 (186866) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082586)

Sach's story _is_ a brilliant story. As imho are most of his stories.

Related TED talk (1)

zoeblade (600058) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082588)

At least, superficially related in that it's to do with how the brain interprets visual data, which covers a similar topic to the New Yorker article:

TED Talk: Pawan Sinha on how brains learn to see. [ted.com]

Almost Biblical (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082704)

I mean, wow, hasn't restoring sight to the blind been one of the attributes of divine powers? I hope this advance which comes from the ingenuity and intelligence of MAN will help shake the faith of those who believe in such fairytales as the flying spaghetti monster et all. Maybe when we all have hoverboards, walking on water won't seem such a big deal as well.

Re:Almost Biblical (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083960)

I mean, wow, hasn't restoring sight to the blind been one of the attributes of divine powers? I hope this advance which comes from the ingenuity and intelligence of MAN will help shake the faith of those who believe in such fairytales as the flying spaghetti monster et all. Maybe when we all have hoverboards, walking on water won't seem such a big deal as well.

No, total mastery over the laws of physics is one of the attributes of divine powers. Healing the blind would be just one manifestation of that power.

You're ignoring the fact that, if the Biblical stories are true, God was healing the blind 2,000 years ago WHEN THE NECESSARY SCIENCE AND TECH WERE TOTALLY ABSENT. Given that it took us another 2,000 years of research to understand the process, a peasant carpenter doing it in 30 A.D. with nothing more than his bare hands would be pretty be pretty freakin' miraculous even if we do now understand the mechanics of it. So call me when a physician can put down his tools and heal a blind person just by touching the eyes with his fingers.

Understanding how something was done does not automatically preclude the existence of a God. Who's to say that God doesn't derive His power from having gained a total understanding of the laws of physics? After all, isn't that the ultimate goal of science--to learn all that is learn-able? And if we succeeded, wouldn't that knowledge essentially make us Gods? And who's to say that some being (maybe from a universe pre-existing this one) didn't achieve that goal--and developed the advanced ethical knowledge necessary to wield that power safely--and decided to use that power to foster the advancement of lesser species?

Either science must admit the possibility of a God or it must admit that its own ultimate goal is unreachable.

Re:Almost Biblical (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 4 years ago | (#32084018)

While I'm not remotely theistic, there's rather a difference between the use of tech to accomplish something and that same thing being (allegedly) accomplished without tech. People who are prone to take the bible and other works as, well, holy writ, are just going to say, "Sure, but Jesus did it without a board."

To give a less charged example, which one of these things is amazing:

Person jumps out of a plane, falls 10,000 feet, lands with minimal to no injury using a parachute

- or -

Person jumps out of a plane, falls 10,000 feet, lands with minimal to no injury yet was not using a parachute or the parachute failed to open

While I would likely attribute the second case to pure luck, it would still seem pretty amazing, and anyone but a complete cynic would likely be far more impressed despite the two activities (falling from 10,000 feet and living) being essentially the same.

For what it's worth, I would actually compare some of modern day humans to the ancient Greek Gods (albeit without the immortality) - we can watch things at vast distances, fly through the skies using various modes of transit, cause tremendous destruction at a whim, provide various draughts and unguents that can cure illness, speak to people on the other side of the world using devices, use other devices to see, hear or otherwise sense and manipulate things that are beyond the capabilities of normal humans to do alone, etc.

If some physicists are correct and black holes are (to us) miniature universes, then I imagine we'll be creating entire universes in the not too distant future. If we take a less grand approach, and just say that creating new species of life - or entirely new forms of life - is godlike, well, we're pretty much there, too.

Of course, we're also like the ancient Olympians in that we're a bunch of squabbling assholes who bicker endlessly over imagined slights and other nonsense, so with the good comes the bad.

But in any case, we're close to making the old gods look like pikers, that's true.

Interesting read (2, Funny)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082744)

would be well advised to study Oliver Sachs's classic piece "To See and Not See."

Yeah, now it's 5:30 in the morning. Thanks a lot.

Agreed (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083632)

I am in the same boat. Fascinating read, but man, so long.

Good news, but... (2, Interesting)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082768)

Is it just me, or does 6 patients seem rather few for a significant trial ?

Re:Good news, but... (3, Informative)

Jaydee23 (1741316) | more than 4 years ago | (#32082994)

I seem to remember that this is the kind of size for a first human study. I guess this is to make sure that the patients didn't die / develop cancer / turn into zombies. The more detailed studies will happen, but I think when you get to the human trial stage, the ethical considerations suggest a small group.

Re:Good news, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083206)

Depends on what you're doing. In some exceptional circumstances, statistical tests can have meaningful results with as few as just one observation. (This assumes that one result to have been obtained in a good way. Which is why anecdotes don't work very well.)

The usefulness of huge sample sizes comes from the law of large numbers and the central limit theorem. This just says that your results (say, x% of patients show improved vision) are almost surely approaching correctness as n goes to infinity. They do not specify at which point your results become close to correct, so we use common sense and rules of thumb (like the oft-quoted n>=30 for the central limit theorem) except in cases where we have theoretical justification to say otherwise. When we don't have the luxury of a large sample, we can make some reasonable assumptions and use robust tests to get good information. This does mean that your error bands are not so narrow.

Of course, more is better. But in the absence of any known severe side-effects, as well as the absence of any theoretical reason for the procedure to be ineffective, this is corroborating evidence.

Re:Good news, but... (2, Informative)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 4 years ago | (#32084058)

Well, it's certainly small for a later stage clinical trial prior to deployment of the treatment, but it's about right for an early trial of efficacy.

With gene therapy you don't want to just start pumping people full of it - there have been some less than fortunate situations in the past, so limiting the initial trial is a wise choice.

Now that this demonstrates that there may be some beneficial effect without horrific side effects, they can ramp it up to a larger trial size and go from there in good conscience.

Tommy, can you see me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32082788)

You talk about your woman,
I wish you could see mine
You talk about your woman,
I wish you could see mine
Everytime she starts to lovin'
She brings eyesight to the blind

You know her daddy gave her magic,
I can tell by the way she walks
Her daddy gave her magic,
I can tell by the way she walks
Everytime she start to shakin'
The dumb begin to talk

She's got the power to heal you, never fear!
She's got the power to heal you, never fear!
Just a word from her lips
And the deaf begin to hear

Alternative solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083082)

Borrow a few neurons from the visual centre of my brain. It would be interesting to see how a "normal" person views the world instead of processing light and colours (mind you colours are done basically by light refractions of the material) with the intensity that I do. Shopping in a supermarket is little short of a nightmare thanks to strip lighting and the aforementioned intensity of vision.

Offer's also open to deaf persons. I can hear people from across a busy room of other people. Also have to turn off my HD/DVD recorder because I can hear it's fans from across my room at night.

Proved?!?!? (3, Insightful)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083172)

Um, it takes a fuck load more than SIX kids to /PROVE/ something. SIX isn't anywhere close to statistical significance, nor does it even remotely demonstrate safety. Proven/proof are VERY big words and shouldn't be thrown around lightly. These preliminary results may be encouraging, but are FAR from proof. Especially, in the medical field.

Re:Proved?!?!? (3, Informative)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083418)

Kind of troll-like, but it's breakfast time. This is the way clinical research works; it's all normal procedure. First, you test the new drug on mice. After that doesn't yield disastrous results, you go on to test it on a *handful* of people who express the condition pretty severely. After *that* works, then you test on a much larger sample size, and after that works, the drug is practically ready for mass manufacturing and production.

Highly Specific? (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083316)

I'm not a medical student, but from the first sentence:

Early-onset, severe retinal dystrophy caused by mutations in the gene encoding retinal pigment epithelium–specific 65-kDa protein (RPE65) is associated with poor vision at birth and complete loss of vision in early adulthood.

Along with their solution:

We administered to three young adult patients subretinal injections of recombinant adeno-associated virus vector 2/2 expressing RPE65 complementary DNA (cDNA) under the control of a human RPE65 promoter.

Makes me think that this seems like a highly specific approach and will only work on people who've had damage done on that protein, not general blindness altogether. There are MANY people who are or become blind for genetic or developmental reasons, and it doesn't seem that this work will help them much, if at all. For instance, the only woman who I had a "serious" multi-year relationship with (so far) has aniridia , which is a condition which is a genetic condition that causes defects in the PAX6 gene on one of the copies of chromosome 11, causing the person to be born without an iris (more information here [wikipedia.org] ). (The funny thing about that disorder is that it's genetically one more gene mutation away from practically killing the person.) Besides nsytgmus, cataracts and tons of other optical nasties, it eventually leads to blindness most of the time that doesn't seem to be correctable by this approach.

But it's a great start and I hope that more breakthroughs like this begin to surface.

Great job! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32083336)

Now do baldness.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?