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, Ph.D., 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."
Mutated forms of the rhodopsin produce a toxic protein in the retina that kills cells that receive light. People with the disease usually notice symptoms between the ages of 10 and 30. At first they have problems seeing in dimly lit places, followed by loss of their peripheral sight. The rate of progression varies, but most patients are blind by 40.
UF Genetics Institute researchers engineered the interfering RNA into a virus, which in turn was injected below the retinas in more than a dozen normal mice. Analysis showed the technique reduced the amount of rhodopsin by about 60 percent.
With the gene drastically muzzled, scientists have begun experiments to create a therapy in which healthy versions of the gene can be introduced into the eye using an apparently harmless virus to deliver the genetic material.
"If we reduce the amount of protein formed by mutated rhodopsin, that may be sufficient to maintain vision in people who are affected by retinitis pigmentosa," Gorbatyuk said. "The second step, introducing the normal gene to the retina, will show whether we are able to restore vision in this model or not."
If both steps are perfected, scientists plan to study the treatment in a larger animal model and then possibly move to a human clinical trial.
John D. Pastor | EurekAlert!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences