Gene Therapy For Blindness Also Strengthens Visual Pathways In The Brain

Gene therapy for blindness with an underlying genetic cause has proved very successful at restoring sight, but analysis shows that it doesn't just correct the eye - it also strengthens and grows visual pathways in the brain. 

Leber's congenital amaurosis is a rare inherited condition that causes the retina to degrade from birth, but through gene therapy, afflicted patients were able to regain much of their lost sight. 2 years after the therapy, by observing MRI scans researchers also discovered that the visual pathways connected to the treated eye were now rebuilt and similar to someone with normal vision. The eye that hadn't been treated still had weaker pathways, showing that the gene therapy was impacting on the brain as well, enabling it to regrow connections in response. This renewal was importantly seen in older patients as well as younger ones, and also became more robust the longer time since the treatment. A phase 3 clinical trial is now underway which will be reviewed in 2016.

"Brain plasticity is not just for kids — it is for all ages," Ashtari said. "Certainly, plasticity is much more rapid in kids, but we can see improvements in older patients as well."  

Read more at The Huffington Post