A Step Towards a Cure for Color-Blindness

Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Florida have used gene therapy to cure two monkeys of color blindness. 

An article published online in the journal Nature discusses the potential for this type of gene therapy to treat adult vision disorders involving cone cells, including color blindness and other retinal diseases.

Color blindness is an inherited disorder caused by a single defective or absent gene.  Jay Neitz, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington (U.W.) School of Medicine and senior study author and his wife Maureen Neitz, also in the U.W. ophthalmology department, have identified this particular gene and developed a working virus vector to carry a functional copy of it.

Researchers injected the gene-carrying virus into the monkeys’ eyes. In about 20 weeks the monkeys attained full color vision and have shown no harmful side effects.

Color-blindness is a common genetic disorder, affecting more than 3.5 people in the United States, including about 8% of Caucasian men, leaving them unable to distinguish between red and green hues.

The research team hopes to be able to translate the findings into clinical trials for humans. The team used human genetic material in the monkeys in the interest of expediting future research.

SOURCE:  Colour blindness corrected by gene therapy, Nature doi:10.1038/news.2009.921