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Scientific Wavefront News & Blog

Partial recovery of visual function in a blind patient after optogenetic therapy

Published 2021-08-12

A recent study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Basel has had success in restoration of some vision in a patient suffering from retinitis pigmentosa using optogenetic stimulation with specially engineered goggles.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare, progressive, inherited eye disease resulting in degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina which can ultimately lead to complete blindness. With this loss of photosensitive cells, the researchers aimed to have retinal ganglion cells respond to light. One eye of the patient was injected with ChrimsonR into the central retina of the most-impaired eye. ChrimsonR is a light-sensing protein delivered via an adeno-associated viral vector, with a peak stimulation of 590 nm. Light stimulation was provided via a set of goggles that had a special camera that took images from the patients surroundings, detecting changes in light intensity and projecting corresponding light pulses onto the retina in real time.

This therapy took place 4 months after therapy injection, with results in visual improvement after seven months of training. Tests showed that the patient could perceive, locate, count, and touch objects when his eye was stimulated with the goggles. The patient also saw improvements in day-to-day activities such as navigating around daily household furniture and objects.

The vision regained is limited, not allowing enough resolution for face identification, or reading. Further trials are also needed to fully understand the safety and efficacy of this approach. However, the results from this trial provide a promising future for optogenetics stimulation and vision restoration. Even if current sigh restoration is not optimal, this is a landmark to help bring further researchers into the field. 

Full access to the materials and methodology can be found by clicking here.

Details on the yellow lasers laser like the ones used in the research can be found here:

  • Click here to learn more about the 589 nm laser used in the research.
  • Click here to learn more about the 593 nm laser used in the research.