At Ghent University Hospital a new genetic therapy offers hope for the visually impaired

The ophthalmology department of Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) is particularly active in research on retinal disorders responsible for visual impairment that offer the hope of avoiding blindness.

With the retina, we convert light into electrical stimuli, which allows us to distinguish contrast and colours. Yet, for some people, the retina struggles to work owing to small errors in a certain CEP290 gene. Result: the cells in the retina that capture light do not work. In other words, anyone born with this poor retinal function is practically blind.

Several ophthalmologists from UZ Gent took part in a study concerning the treatment of this hereditary retinal disorder, scientifically referred to as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). In short, it involves correcting the incorrect genetic code by influencing the LCA. The results published in the prestigious Nature Medicine review are promising. After receiving treatment, most of the study’s patients saw their sensitivity to light greatly increase. Some of them even have clearer vision.



Although the success of genetic therapy has its limits, since it is dependent on the quality of each patient’s retina, it can now be tested on a wider scale for longer periods of time. And afterwards, it can be marketed.