London (BBC News (UK)) — Woman becomes first in world to have gene therapy to 'halt' AMD blindness.
A woman from Oxford has been treated with gene therapy in a world first, in a bid to stop sight loss.
Surgeons injected a synthetic gene into the back of Janet Osborne's eye in a bid to prevent more cells from dying.
It is the first treatment to target the underlying genetic cause of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The macula is part of the retina and responsible for central vision and fine detail. In age-related macular degeneration, the retinal cells die and are not renewed. The risk of getting AMD increases with age.
As some people age, genes responsible for the eye's natural defences start to malfunction and begin destroying cells in the macula, leading to vision loss.
An injection is made at the back of the eye, which delivers a harmless virus containing a synthetic gene. The virus infects the retinal cells and releases the gene. This enables the eye to make a protein designed to stop cells from dying and so keep the macula healthy.
If successful, the aim would be to treat patients before they have lost any sight, in a bid to halt AMD in its tracks. That would have major implications for patients' quality of life.