Thursday, March 15, 2007

Congenitally blind cyborgs don't have to be blind either

University of Florida News - Gene therapy for blindness clears hurdle in mice: "University of Florida researchers have used an experimental therapy in mice to shut down a gene that plays a crucial role in a leading cause of inherited blindness.

The technique, detailed in an upcoming issue of Vision Research, involves injecting the eye with a bit of genetic material called interfering RNA, which helps disable the gene.

Normally the gene is essential for healthy eyesight, but mutated versions of it are passed from generation to generation in some families and can lead to blindness.

Disabling the gene is a step toward developing a gene therapy to treat people with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease that attacks the light-sensing cells in the eye. It affects about one in 60,000 people, with an estimated 1.5 million people afflicted worldwide.

“One of the causes of the disease is mutated gene expression,” said Marina Gorbatyuk, an assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the UF College of Medicine. “We work with rhodopsin, which is the main retinal protein. Without it, or if it is mutated, people simply won’t see.”"

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