A 58-year-old patient who became blind due to a degenerative retinal disease was able to partially recover his sight thanks to an innovative technique: optogenetics.

Written on

World first – Blind man recovers partial sight thanks to optogenetics

A harmless gesture, however, it is a medical revolution. Alain, blind due to retinopathy pigmentosa, can finally locate objects in front of him. If he was able to recover certain visual capacities, it is thanks to optogenetic therapy. In March 2019, he was injected into his right eye with an algae protein, which makes the neurons in the retina sensitive to light.

A real breakthrough for patients like Alain, whose cells that pick up the light signal, the photoreceptors, have disappeared. “In these patients, when they have lost their photoreceptors, we still find these two layers of neurons and the idea is to come and reactivate these neurons by transforming them into pseudo photoreceptors” explains Professor Serge Picaud, neuroscience researcher.

Efficiency to be confirmed

Three months after the injection of the protein, Alain managed to distinguish the outlines of the cups. With glasses equipped with cameras, which project the image of objects in front of him, he was able to rediscover the shapes of a notebook, a box of staples, and even the strips of pedestrian crossings.

We will have to wait for this therapy to be offered to other patients: researchers must first confirm its effectiveness.