Does gene therapy hold the key to curing colorblindness in humans? If a team of University of Washington researchers have their way, it might.
As Genevieve Huard reports in UW's The Daily, Dr. Jay Neitz, bishop professor in the UW Department of Ophthalmology, along with a team of researchers, are currently trying to turn treatments that cured colorblindness in squirrel monkeys back in 2009 into something applicable for humans suffering from the same genetic disorder. And, so far, the results seem promising.
Citing Neitz, The Daily notes, "findings show that it is feasible to cure colorblindness in humans as well as other types of blinding eye disorders that are currently untreatable."
Apparently, it all comes down to the genetic mutations involved in color blindness, and finding a way to administer gene therapy effectively to humans may provide the key to treating the problem. The article indicates one in 12 men and one in 230 women suffer from red-green colorblindness in the U.S., helping to make it the most common single genetic disorder in human beings.
According to The Daily:
"The whole reason that we wanted to attempt to cure colorblindness in the monkeys is as a way to develop a general method for treating eye disorders using gene therapy," Neitz said. "Before we did those experiments, it was just an idea that you might be able to cure disorders of the eye in people with gene therapy."
"In order to be able to try this in humans, you have to prove that treatment is both safe and effective," Neitz said. "We think that the experiments in squirrel monkeys go a long way in providing the kind of evidence that we would have to show that it is effective."
But, Neitz said, using humans as participants would require far more safety-protocol requirements, which is what the team of researchers is currently working on perfecting.
Determining how best to administer the gene therapy to humans may be the next steop in ultimately solving the problem. In the case of the cured squirrel monkeys, the animals received the therapy behind their retinas. According to The Daily, "Neitz said making the medicine administrable through a small shot to the eye would be more streamlined for human treatment to reduce the risk of other complications."