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The Daily Telegraph

The top 8 robotic healthcare breakthroughs: from gene mapping to robot nurses

(2 November 2017)

 

[...] Last year, Prof Robert MacLaren successfully carried out the world’s first robotic operation inside the eye at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford.

He used a remotely controlled robot to lift a membrane 100th of a millimetre thick from the retina at the back of the right eye from Revd Dr William Beaver. He is the first patient ever to undergo this experimental procedure.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The TimesGene therapy raises hopes of blindness cure

(3 October 2017)

 

 

 

 

A gene therapy has restored sight to mice whose vision had been wiped out by a common form of inherited blindness.

Scientists at the University of Oxford are planning to test their technique on humans after achieving what they say are the most promising results yet.

About 20,000 British families are thought to be affected by retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a cluster of genetic conditions that cause the light-capturing rods and cones at the back of the eye to die off. There is little that eye doctors can do once the disease reaches its final stages.

[...] The Oxford researchers have developed a new method for reaching around the back of the eyeball and squirting DNA below the retina.

They also used the gene for a human protein called melanopsin, which carries a much lower risk of being rejected by the immune system than the algae-derived proteins used in other gene therapies.

Findings published in the journal PNAS showed that loss of sight was reversed in mice for at least 13 months.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The IndependentScientists cure blindness in mice with 'simple' genetic procedure that could work on humans

(2 October 2017)

 

 

The most common form of blindness in young people could be at least partially cured using gene therapy, a new study in mice suggests.

Researchers managed to restore sight to mice affected by retinitis pigmentosa after reprogramming their remaining retinal nerve cells.

These were not light-sensitive but were altered by the technique to give the mice a degree of vision.

[...] One of the researchers in the retinitis pigmentosa study, Dr Samantha de Silva, of Oxford University, expressed optimism about the implications of their work.

“There are many blind patients in our clinics and the ability to give them some sight back with a relatively simple genetic procedure is very exciting,” she said.

“Our next step will be to start a clinical trial to assess this in patients.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Daily MailBlindness breakthrough: Single gene injected into the back of the eye reverses one of most common types of sight loss

(2 October 2017)

 

Scientists have used gene therapy to reverse one of the most common causes of blindness.

A single gene injected into the back of the eye restores vision, by fixing a problem which stops the retina detecting light.

The breakthrough, in mice experiments, saw the animals' blindness cured so that they again responded to beams of light and could see objects placed in their cage. Crucially, the eye continued to make a vital protein which restores sight for 15 months after the initial injection.

Researchers at the University of Oxford says the gene therapy goes further than other work on retinitis pigmentosa, which affects more than 20,000 people in Britain.

Previous attempts focused on correcting the genetic mutations which cause blindness by killing off the cells we need to detect light.

However the new technique provides a single fix, by drafting in completely different cells to do their job. It could be available for patients in five to 10 years.

Samantha de Silva, the study's lead author from the Nuffield Laboratory of Opthalmology at the University of Oxford, said: 'There are many blind patients in our clinics and the ability to give them some sight back with a relatively simple genetic procedure is very exciting. Our next step will be to start a clinical trial to assess this in patients.'

[link to full text]

 

 

 

WiredThis sight-saving R2D2 robot wants to stick a tiny knife in your eye

(10 May 2017)

 

Ophthalmologists come in all shapes and sizes. But this tiny Robotic Retinal Dissection Device (aptly named "R2D2"), is the smallest we've seen so far. What's more, it operates from inside a single hole in your eye, travelling back in and out to make incisions - even as the eye rotates.

Created by Preceyes BV, a Dutch medical robotics firm, the R2D2 robot debuted in 2016 at Oxford University's Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, when it was first used by Robert MacLaren to perform surgery on a patient. The robot was remotely controlled to lift a 0.01mm thick membrane from the retina at the back of the right eye of Reverend Dr William Beaver. After the operation, Beaver's membrane growth had been removed and his vision returned to normal. It was the first time the procedure had been used and was highly experimental – essentially guiding a small automated knife with nothing more than a joystick and touchscreen.

[...] After completing the first operation, Professor Robert MacLaren said: "There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future."

[...] With this in mind, the potential for small-scale operations, such as those performed by the R2D2, could be a natural partner for more radical treatment methods. Professor MacLaren claims the next phase in the R2D2's development will hopefully tackle a variety of eyesight issues.

"This will help to develop novel surgical treatments for blindness, such as gene therapy and stem cells, which need to be inserted under the retina with a high degree of precision."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

NBC News Robot Performs First-Ever Surgery Inside Human Eye

 (9 May 2017)

 

 

 

 

In a medical first, surgeons have used a robot to operate inside the human eye, greatly improving the accuracy of a delicate surgery to remove fine membrane growth on the retina. Such growth distorts vision and, if left unchecked, can lead to blindness in the affected eye.

Currently, doctors perform this common eye surgery without robots. But given the delicate nature of the retina and the narrowness of the opening in which to operate, even highly skilled surgeons can cut too deeply and cause small amounts of hemorrhaging and scarring, potentially leading to other forms of visual impairment, according to the researchers who tested out the new robotic surgery in a small trial. The pulsing of blood through the surgeon's hands is enough to affect the accuracy of the cut, the researchers said.

In the trial, at a hospital in the United Kingdom, surgeons performed the membrane-removal surgery on 12 patients; six of those patients underwent the traditional procedure, and six underwent the new robotic technique. Those patients in the robot group experienced significantly fewer hemorrhages and less damage to the retina, the findings showed.

The technique is "a vision of eye surgery in the future," Dr. Robert E. MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who led the study team and performed some of the surgeries, said in a statement. MacLaren presented the results Monday at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), happening this week in Baltimore.

[...] MacLaren said the precision offered by the robotic system may enable new surgical procedures that surgeons have dreamed about but figured were too difficult to accomplish. For example, MacLaren said he hopes to next use the robotic system to place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it, which could aid in retinal gene therapy, a promising new treatment for blindness.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC World ServiceHereditary blindness cure tested

(20 March 2017)

 

 

  

 

A virus carrying corrective DNA into cells at the back of the eye is being tested to treat one of the most common forms of hereditary blindness in young men and boys. It targets XLRP (X-linked retinitis pigmentosa), which is progressive and currently incurable.

Professor Robert MacLaren of Oxford University is the leader of this first trial on patients in the UK and told Newsday how this gene therapy treatment works.

[link to audio]

 

 

 

The Australian (extended)Gene therapy hope for blindness

(20 March 2017)

 

 

A gene therapy treatment for the most common cause of blindness in young people is being tested in a group of British trial patients.

X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP) is currently incurable and leads to slow and irreversible vision loss.

On March 16, a 29-year-old man became the first patient to undergo the gene therapy procedure at Oxford Eye Hospital.

The trial team hopes to recruit up to 30 patients for the study, which is designed to assess safety and tolerability rather than effectiveness.

The aim is to use a virus to carry corrective DNA into cells at the back of the eye.

To make the treatment work, scientists have to reprogram a gene called RPGR to make it more stable while not affecting its function.

The instability of RPGR in the retina has previously been a major obstacle to developing gene therapy for the condition.

Trial leader Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at Oxford University, said: "The effect of RPGR-related disease on families with retinitis pigmentosa is devastating and we have spent many years working out how to develop this gene therapy.

"Changing the genetic code is always undertaken with great caution, but the new sequence we are using has proven to be highly effective in our laboratory studies."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Daily Telegraph

Blind British man in world’s first operation to deliver modified DNA to his eyes

(20 March 2017)

 

Thousands of people born with a faulty gene which makes them go blind have been offered new hope after a British man underwent the world’s first operation to deliver new DNA to his eyes and restore his sight.

Around 15,000 people in Britain suffer from x-linked retinitis pigmentosa, a deteriorating condition which brings a slow and irreversible loss of vision, and which is the leading cause of blindness in young people.

Loss of sight occurs because a gene responsible for maintaining the light sensitive cells at the back of the eye is missing half of its DNA code.

But scientists can now replace the code using a groundbreaking technique which reprogrammes the gene in the lab, then delivers the healthy DNA into the eye, via a harmless virus.

Last Thursday, a 29-year-old man became the first person in the world to undergo the procedure at Oxford Eye Hospital and is now recovering.

Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, who is leading the trial said: "He is doing well and now at home, but we will have to wait a few years to know if it has stopped his retina from degenerating. 

“The effect of disease on families with retinitis pigmentosa is devastating and we have spent many years working out how to develop this gene therapy.

“Changing the genetic code is always undertaken with great caution, but the new sequence we are using has proven to be highly effective in our laboratory studies.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The SunBrit scientists testing ‘groundbreaking’ therapy that could cure common cause of blindness

(19 March 2017)

 

 

Scientists seeking a cure for blindness are testing a groundbreaking gene therapy on British patients.

The clinical trial aims to find a treatment for one of the most common causes of blindness in boys and young men.

[...] The trial, which could feature up to 30 patients, follows success by an Oxford University team in treating those with another form of hereditary blindness, known as choroideremia.

[...] Prof Robert MacLaren, of Oxford University, said: “We have spent many years working out how to develop this gene therapy.

“Changing the genetic code is always undertaken with great caution, but the new sequence we are using has proven to be highly effective in our laboratory studies.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

MIT Technology Review

The Tiny Robots Revolutionizing Eye Surgery

(17 January 2017) 

 

 

 

 

 

Last September, Robert MacLaren, an ophthalmologist and professor at Oxford University, plunged a tiny robotic arm into William Beaver’s eye. A membrane had recently contracted on the 70-year-old priest’s retina, pinching it into an uneven shape and causing him to see the world as if reflected in a hall of mirrors. 

Using a joystick and a camera feed, MacLaren guided the arm of the Robotic Retinal Dissection Device, or R2D2 for short, through a tiny incision in the eye, before lifting the wrinkled membrane, no more than a hundredth of a millimeter thick, from the retina, and reversing Beaver’s vision problems. 

It was the first operation performed inside the human eye using a robot. Since September, five more patients have undergone robot-assisted operations at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital in England, including one in which a virus, used in gene therapy to halt the effects of retinal degeneration, was planted on the retina itself, a procedure only made possible by R2D2’s unprecedented precision.

“My movements were improved and finessed by the robot,” MacLaren says. “I could even let go and the robot would hold everything securely in place.” 

[...] MacLaren believes that R2D2 and other robots like it will enable surgeons to, for the first time, operate underneath the retina and interact with blood vessels in the eye. “Undoubtedly this will lead to improvements in quality of eye surgery that require highly technical procedures,” he says. “But most significantly they will open the door to new operations for which the human hand does not have the necessary control and precision.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC NewsMedical breakthroughs of 2016

(30 December 2016)

 

 

  

Here are some of the pioneering treatments that scientists developed this year.  [Note by University of Oxford: the relevant sequence commences 15 seconds from the start of the video.]

[link to video]

 

 

 

The EngineerRobot surgery is easy on the eye

(17 December 2016)

 

 

Everybody knows R2-D2. Such is the success of the Star Wars films that even those with no interest whatsoever in science fiction would recognise the little cylindrical robot on its three legs. They might even know that its stubby body houses a number of delicate manipulators for interfacing with external computers, and carrying out precise tasks. But they might be surprised to find that fiction has begun to leak into reality, because there is now a real R2-D2 that is designed to carry out the most precise tasks. And although the characters in Star Wars trust R2-D2 implicitly, the people who come into contact with its real-world namesake will have to invest an even greater amount of trust in it, because this robot’s job is to maintain and even restore the sense most precious to human beings: eyesight.

The real-world R2-D2 is a series of trials being carried out by a surgical robot, the Preceyes surgical system (PSS). But unlike its fictional counterpart, this is no clamp-handed humanoid looming over an operating table. Instead, the PSS is a tool intended to assist human surgeons in difficult and arduous procedures. Surgical-assistance robots such as this are a relatively recent addition to the operating theatre, as they are very expensive and not yet in particularly widespread use, but in some fields of surgery they are becoming more accepted and better known.

[...] The PSS has been developed by Dutch company Preceyes, and is being tested and further developed for specific applications in the R2-D2 (an abbreviation for Robotic Retinal Dissection Device) trial, a long-term programme being carried out at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and in collaboration with Oxford University’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology. The trial, which consists of 12 operations, began this year with the first surgery taking place in September. The first phase of the trial, comprising six surgeries, is now complete. Phase two will begin in mid-2017.

[...] Phase one of the R2-D2 trial was mainly aimed at proving that PSS was safe to use in eye surgery and that it did assist the surgeon in carrying out his or her task. In phase two, MacLaren’s team will be injecting therapeutic agents (drugs in this case, not gene therapy) under patients’ retinas. “It’s a fairly simple procedure, and we are used to doing it, but it will pave the way for the more difficult gene therapy technique,” MacLaren said.

[link to full text]

 

 

Financial Times

 

Eye surgery: lasers are with us, robots on their way

(12 October 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

[...] The first robotic operation inside the eye took place recently at the University of Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. Once robotic surgery was not feasible at the microscopic level required but, in September, Oxford surgeons used a remotely controlled robot to lift a membrane 100th of a millimetre thick from the retina at the back of a patient’s right eye.

To counter the surgeon’s tremors, the operation took place through a hole less than 1mm in diameter. Dutch company Preceyes built the robot, the like of which may in the future help speed up cataract surgery and perform tasks that human hands cannot do, such as injecting drugs or stem cells into retinal veins, which are thinner than human hair.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The OphthalmologistForging Iron Man

(1 October 2016)

 

 

It’s mid-afternoon on the last day of August. The The Ophthalmologist October 2016 Front CoverProfessor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, Robert MacLaren, looks both happy and relieved: the procedure is over. It was successful, and his patient is being wheeled out of Theatre 7 of the Oxford Eye Hospital. He stands then steps away from the surgical microscope and within seconds, he’s surrounded by a phalanx of people in blue scrubs congratulating him. There’s laughter, handshakes and elation all round – today was a good day at the office. But only a few minutes beforehand nobody was speaking: the room was dimmed; the tension palpable. Why? Robert was in the process of making history. He was the first person in the world to perform robotic-assisted eye surgery (an ILM peel) on a live patient.

[...] The ILM peel was really only the proof-of-concept. What Robert MacLaren has in mind for the robot is the subretinal application of gene and stem cell therapy. To that end, he’s currently working with NightstaRx on developing a genetic treatment for choroideremia, and on embryonic stem cells for a number of retinal diseases. But practically, both approaches require the subretinal injection of fluids precisely and at a controlled rate into a tiny hole – in a diseased and possibly friable retina. This is getting beyond the abilities of the human hand: to do this safely and consistently, you need the precision of a robot – imagine trying to find and apply a second dose through the same hole by hand. Put it another way, the whole promise of gene and stem cell therapies for the future treatment of retinal degenerative disease appears to be linked to the development of robotic eye surgery.

[link to full text] [link to journal]

 

 

 

The EngineerOxford surgeons perform world-first robotic eye surgery with R2D2

(12 September 2016)

 

Surgeons at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, have carried out the world’s first internal eye operation using a robot, remotely controlling the machine to lift a membrane 100th of a millimetre thick from a patient’s retina.

The Robotic Retinal Dissection Device (R2D2) is designed to mitigate against tiny tremors in surgeons’ hands, which can even be caused by their pulse. Built by Dutch medical robotics firm Preceyes BV, it has seven independent computer-controlled motors and acts like a mechanical hand. Using a joystick, a touchscreen and an operating microscope, the surgeon’s movements are converted into robotic manoeuvres as precise as 1000th of a millimetre.

In this instance, Professor of Ophthalmology Robert MacLaren entered the eye of Reverend Dr William Beaver via a hole less than 1mm in diameter. The 70-year-old priest had a membrane growing on his retina that was distorting his vision. At just 100th of a millimetre thick, this membrane had to be dissected off the retina without damaging it. The operation has so far been a success and Father Beaver’s vision is improving.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future,” said Professor MacLaren.

“Current technology with laser scanners and microscopes allows us to monitor retinal diseases at the microscopic level, but the things we see are beyond the physiological limit of what the human hand can operate on. With a robotic system, we open up a whole new chapter of eye operations that currently cannot be performed.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

METRORobot’s just operated on someone’s eye for the first time ever

(11 September 2016)

 

 

Whether you like it or not, robots are becoming the future.

To the point where robots are now carrying out eye surgeries.

That’s right – Surgeons have successfully carried out the world’s first operation inside the eye using a robot system.

William Beaver, 70, had the procedure done at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The 70-year-old, who is a priest, said: ‘My sight is coming back. I am delighted that my surgery went so well and I feel honoured to be part of this pioneering research project.’

Surgeons decided to use the robot system because the patient had a membrane growing on the surface of his retina, which had contracted and pulled it into an uneven shape.

The membrane is about 100th of a millimetre thick and needed to be dissected off the retina without damaging it.

They usually attempt this by slowing their pulse and timing movements between heart beats but the robots make the whole process easier.

On completing the operation, Professional Robert MacLaren said: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.

‘With a robotic system, we open up a whole new chapter of eye operations that currently cannot be performed.’

[...] Prof MacLaren added: ‘This will help to develop novel surgical treatments for blindness, such as gene therapy and stem cells, which need to be inserted under the retina with a high degree of precision.’

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Russia TodayVision of the future: Robot used inside man’s eye during surgery to restore sight

(10 September 2016)

 

 

 

 

For the first time ever, a robot was used by a team of surgeons in Oxford, England to operate inside the eye of a man and restore his sight.    

The device was used by the team at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and controlled by a joystick to remove a membrane one hundredth of a millimeter thick.

The patient, Reverend Bill Beaver, had lost almost all of his vision from his right eye due to the membrane covering the retina.

The operation required complete precision and was made possible by the Preceyes surgical robot that was invented in Holland.

The technology of the robot is extremely sophisticated and it even has the ability to filter out the surgeon’s hand tremor when used.

Oxford University Professor Robert MacLaren, who carried out the procedure, said the operation was more efficient with the robot rather than doing it by hand, the BBC reports.

“Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around,” MacLaren said.

The professor stated that most robots used in operating theaters are larger “with big engineering,” whereas the device used for the eye procedure is much smaller.

“Normally when we do this operation by hand, we touch the retina and there is some hemorrhage,” he added. “But when we used the robot, the membrane was lifted away. There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Daily Telegraph

Oxford surgeons operate robot inside patient’s eye to restore sight

(10 September 2016)

 

A team of surgeons have restored a patient’s sight by operating a robot inside his eye.

The operation, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, was carried out by doctors at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

[...] It was an operation which required considerable precision. This was made possible by the Preceyes surgical robot, which has been developed in Holland.

Such is the device’s sophistication, it is even capable of filtering out the surgeon’s hand tremor.

“Operating at the back of the eye needs great precision and the challenge has been to get a robot system to do that through a tiny hole in the wall of the eye without causing damage as it moves around,” said Prof Robert MacLaren, from Oxford University, who carried out the procedure.

"Most robots in theatre are big, with big engineering, whereas this is tiny - everything had to be shrunk down.”

He added: "Normally, when we do this operation by hand, we touch the retina and there is some haemorrhage. But when we used the robot, the membrane was lifted cleanly away.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The GuardianSurgeons use robot to operate inside eye in world first

(10 September 2016)

 

British surgeons have successfully performed the world’s first robotic operation inside the eye, potentially revolutionising the way such conditions are treated.

The procedure was carried out at John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, where surgeons welcomed its success.

On completing the operation, Professor Robert MacLaren said: “There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.

“Current technology with laser scanners and microscopes allows us to monitor retinal diseases at the microscopic level, but the things we see are beyond the physiological limit of what the human hand can operate on.

“With a robotic system, we open up a whole new chapter of eye operations that currently cannot be performed.”

[...] MacLaren said: “This will help to develop novel surgical treatments for blindness, such as gene therapy and stem cells, which need to be inserted under the retina with a high degree of precision.”

The robotic eye surgery trial involves 12 patients undergoing operations with increasing complexity. In the first part of the trial, the robot is used to peel membranes off the delicate retina without damaging it.

If this part is successful, as has been the case so far, the second phase of the trial will assess how the robot can place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Daily MailOxford priest gets his sight back after world-first eye surgery with a ROBOT to repair hole in his retina

(10 September 2016)

 

A priest said he felt 'completely relaxed' as surgeons performed revolutionary surgery inside his eye with the aid of a robot.

The patient, Father William Beaver, 70, an associate priest at St Mary the Virgin Church in Oxford, said his eyesight was returning following the operation, having previously experienced distorted vision similar to 'looking in a hall of mirrors at a fairground'.

The procedure - the world's first robotic operation - was carried out by surgeons at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, who welcomed its success and said it could revolutionise the way such conditions are treated.

[...] On completing the operation, Professor Robert MacLaren said: 'There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.

'Current technology with laser scanners and microscopes allows us to monitor retinal diseases at the microscopic level, but the things we see are beyond the physiological limit of what the human hand can operate on.

'With a robotic system, we open up a whole new chapter of eye operations that currently cannot be performed.'

The procedure was necessary because the patient had a membrane growing on the surface of his retina, which had contracted and pulled it into an uneven shape. The membrane is about 100th of a millimetre thick and needed to be dissected off the retina without damaging it.

Surgeons normally attempt this by slowing their pulse and timing movements between heart beats, but the robot could make it much easier. Experts said the robot could enable new, high-precision procedures that are currently out of the reach of the human hand.

[...] Prof MacLaren said: 'This will help to develop novel surgical treatments for blindness, such as gene therapy and stem cells, which need to be inserted under the retina with a high degree of precision.'

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Daily MirrorBritish surgeons perform world's first eye operation with aid of robot on 70-year-old priest

(10 September 2016)

 

 

Surgeons have performed a revolutionary eye operation on a 70-year-old priest - thanks to the help of a robot.

The robot performed intricate work inside Father William Beaver's eye after his vision had become so distorted, he said it felt like "looking in a hall of mirrors at a fairground".

Surgeons at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital have now said robots could be used more often for complicated eye operations in the future.

[...] On completing the operation, Professor Robert MacLaren said: "There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.

"Current technology with laser scanners and microscopes allows us to monitor retinal diseases at the microscopic level, but the things we see are beyond the physiological limit of what the human hand can operate on.

"With a robotic system, we open up a whole new chapter of eye operations that currently cannot be performed."

[...] Prof MacLaren said: "This will help to develop novel surgical treatments for blindness, such as gene therapy and stem cells, which need to be inserted under the retina with a high degree of precision."

The current robotic eye surgery trial involves 12 patients undergoing operations with increasing complexity.

In the first part of the trial, the robot is used to peel membranes off the delicate retina without damaging it.

If this part is successful, as has been the case so far, the second phase of the trial will assess how the robot can place a fine needle under the retina and inject fluid through it.

Experts said this will lead to use of the robot in retinal gene therapy, a new treatment for blindness which is currently being trialled in a number of centres around the world.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC NewsRobot eye surgery - how it works

(9 September 2016)

 

 

  

Surgeons in Oxford have used a robot to operate inside the eye - in a world first.  

A team at the John Radcliffe Hospital used the device - which is controlled via a joystick - to remove a membrane covering a patient's retina which was making them blind.

This animated graphic shows how it works.

[link to video]

 

 

 

ITV

UK surgeons carry out world's first robot eye surgery

(9 September 2016)

 

 

 

British surgeons have performed the world's first robotic operation inside an eye.

Father William Beaver, 70, an associate priest at St Mary the Virgin Church in Oxford, reported that his eyesight was returning following the pioneering procedure.

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren, one of the surgeons, said: "There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future".

The procedure had become necessary as Father Beaver had a membrane growing on the surface of his retina, which had contracted and pulled it into an uneven shape.

That membrane was about 100th of a millimetre thick and needed to be dissected off the retina without damaging it.

Surgeons normally attempt this by slowing their pulse and timing movements between heart beats, but the robot could make it much easier.

During the procedure, medics used a joystick and touchscreen outside the eye to control the robot while monitoring its progress through the operating microscope.

This gave them a notable advantage as significant movements of the joystick resulted in tiny movements of the robot.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC NewsRobot operates inside eye in world first

(9 September 2016)

 

 

 

Surgeons have used a robot to operate inside the eye and restore sight - in a world first. 

A team at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital used the device, controlled via a joystick, to remove a membrane one hundredth of a millimetre thick.

[...] Twelve patients will undergo surgical procedures using the robot, in a trial funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. 

Additional funding is being provided by Zizoz, a Dutch charity for patients with choroideremia, a genetic form of blindness which might be a future target for treatment using the robot.

Another level

The trial is designed as a proof of principle, to establish whether the robot can do what an eye surgeon does, but with greater accuracy.

But the ultimate goal is for robotics to take eye surgery to another level.

Prof MacLaren said: "There is no doubt in my mind that we have just witnessed a vision of eye surgery in the future.

"We can certainly improve on current operations, but I hope the robot will allow us to do new more complex and delicate operations that are impossible with the human hand."

[link to full text and video]

 

 

 

National GeographicWhy There’s New Hope About Ending Blindness

(1 September 2016)

 

 

 

National Geographic September 2016 Front Cover (Small)[...] Imagine a high-contrast, low-resolution, flickering black-and-white picture—a downgrade from the first television images of the 1920s—and you’ve imagined something close to what Rhian Lewis sees with her bionic eye. Lewis, 50, of Cardiff, Wales, has retinitis pigmentosa, a disease in which photoreceptors die because of a gene deficiency and vision dims from the periphery. Over time the tunnel of sight shrinks to nothing—“like a dimmer switch slowly going dark,” Lewis says.

[...] In June 2015 she went to Oxford Eye Hospital, lay on a table, surrendered to anesthesia, and, 10 hours later, awoke with a bionic eye. In what was “without doubt the most complex operation I’ve ever done,” says surgeon Robert MacLaren, the Oxford team slipped between her retina’s delicate layers a freckle-size microchip laden with 1,600 tiny photodiodes. MacLaren’s clinical trial is exploring whether this chip, known as the Alpha, can replace the dead photoreceptors (the famous rods and cones) in the center of Lewis’s retina by translating light into bursts of current that the existing neural network will relay to the brain.

When they turned on the device, Lewis told me last November, “I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly—oh, my God—there’s something there.”

[...] MacLaren says the implant project is teaching valuable lessons. For starters, its demonstration that photodiodes can substitute for natural photoreceptors is a huge stride: In the exacting machine that is the eye, we’ve fashioned a cog that fits, even if imperfectly. The devices also show that patients can learn to interpret new presentations of visual stimuli. In addition, MacLaren says, the implants show that “there’s still visual potential once the photoreceptors are gone, because the other nerves are still intact. This is something I never thought could be shown.”

MacLaren says that these lessons learned are already spurring advances in the other two cutting-edge areas: gene therapy and stem cells.

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ScienceBlind people see better after shot of gene therapy

(29 April 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

Researchers have used gene therapy to preserve or improve the vision of several people born with a rare form of blindness. Called choroideremia, the disease is caused by a mutation in a gene called CHM and often leads to complete blindness by middle age. A team at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom injected a harmless virus carrying a good copy of CHM into the light-sensing retinal cells of six people with choroideremia. [...] The improvements have lasted 4 years, suggesting they may be permanent, unlike a gene therapy treatment for a different blindness disease that in some studies has faded with time.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC NewsNew genetic therapy works on rare type of blindness

(29 April 2016)

 

 

 

Cricket coach Joe Pepper was going blind until he received a pioneering genetic therapy that not only saved his sight, but actually improved it.

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The SpectatorGene therapy reverses ‘untreatable’ sight loss in young men

(29 April 2016)

 

 

British scientists have developed a new therapy which improves the vision of people with a rare genetic disorder called choroideremia.

Similar methods could be used to treat more common forms of blindness in the future, according to the authors of the study, which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The condition, which only affects young men, is caused by a faulty gene that kills light-detecting cells in the back of the eyes. The therapy involves injecting working copies of the gene into the eyes, which allow the faulty cells to regenerate.

Early clinical trials, carried out over the last four years on 32 patients, have demonstrated that the change is ‘long-lasting’, and therefore suitable to be offered as a treatment.

Choroideremia is estimated to affect one in 50,000 people. Those with the condition generally notice a gradual loss of peripheral vision, leading to ‘tunnel vision’ and eventually complete loss of their sight. The condition was previously considered untreatable.

The new therapy has been shown to not only halt the progress of the disease, but in some cases improve the patients’ vision.

Robert MacLaren, the Oxford University eye surgeon leading the trial, told the BBC: ‘The concept of gene therapy is that it corrects gene defects. Ideally, we should only have to do that once, because once the DNA is corrected and inserted into the correct cell, that cell should be able to continue its function as normal.

‘We seem to have achieved this concept of one single treatment that does not need to be repeated which is unlike traditional medicines.’

The professor says that he anticipates a gene therapy for choroideremia being licensed within three years.

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The TimesGene therapy offers hope of blindness cure

(29 April 2016)

 

 

 

 

Scientists at the University of Oxford have restored some vision to patients who were going blind by injecting a working gene into cells in their retinas.

The team hopes that their research will lead to cures for other common causes of blindness, including genetic-related macular degeneration, which affects thousands of people in Britain.

The six people in the Oxford trial had choroideremia, which is caused by a defect in the gene CHM. It affects about one in 50,000 people.

There is no cure or treatment for the disease, which progresses slowly, destroying retinal photoreceptors and often leading to complete blindness by middle age. Its slow pace offers a glimmer of hope by making it possible to step in with gene therapy before too much damage has been done.

Publishing their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine, the experts said that it was the strongest evidence to date that the effects of gene therapy could be permanent.

Robert MacLaren, who led the study, said: “As we learn more about genetics, we realise that correcting faulty genes even before a disease starts may be the most effective treatment.”

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Daily MailCould British breakthrough lead to cure for blindness?

(29 April 2016)

 

A cure for blindness is in sight after pioneering British treatment produced astonishing results.

Five men have been stopped from going blind after undergoing the gene therapy – and some can see better than before.

One can see the stars in the night sky again while another can read the numbers on his mobile phone.

Excitingly, the eye op is still working up to four years on – raising hopes that a single treatment could last a lifetime.

Treated early enough, it may be even possible to stop vision ever deteriorating.

All of those treated so far have a rare eye condition called choroideremia.

[...] Robert MacLaren, the eye surgeon who led the world-first trial, said: ‘This is the breakthrough we have all been waiting for.’

Choroideremia, which had been considered incurable, occurs when a missing gene leads to key light-gathering cells at the back of the eye dying.

Vision gradually deteriorates from childhood and most sufferers go completely blind by their 40s.

The treatment involves injecting billions of copies of the missing gene into the eye.

It had been hoped this would stop the disease in its tracks.

But the gene therapy treatment has exceeded expectations, with the New England Journal of Medicine reporting that some of the patients received dramatic improvements in vision.

[...] Professor MacLaren said the finding that five of the first six patients given the jab have seen lasting benefits is ‘unequivocal proof’ that gene therapy provides lasting results.

More research is needed but he hopes the jab will be available as a treatment for choroideremia just three years from now.

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Popular ScienceGene therapy for congenital blindness has long-lasting effect

(28 April 2016)

 

 

For the one in 50,000 people born with the genetic disorder choroideremia, there’s no treatment that can slow the progressive vision loss. Scientists from the University of Oxford have been developing a gene therapy treatment to reverse the effects of the disease, and, though the initial results seemed promising, they had not been sure the treatment would work in the long term.

According to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, the treatment has worked well in patients over the course of four years, buoying hopes that treatment for the condition (and for other genetic degenerative eye conditions like retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration) may become available to other patients soon.

[...] The researchers tried this treatment on six patients in the UK. The initial results looked good. After four years, not only did the treatment slow the progression of vision loss, in some patients it even improved their vision in the long term. The youngest patient saw the most drastic improvement, indicating to the researchers that administering the treatment to choroideremia patients while they’re young could yield even better results.

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BBC NewsGene therapy reverses sight loss and is long-lasting

(28 April 2016)

 

 

 

A genetic therapy has improved the vision of patients who would otherwise have gone blind.

A clinical study by British scientists has shown that the improvement is long-lasting and so the therapy is suitable to be offered as a treatment.

[...] This is the first indication that the treatment is viable and could be widely used on patients, according to the eye surgeon leading the trial, Prof Robert MacLaren of Oxford University.

"The concept of gene therapy is that it corrects gene defects. Ideally, we should only have to do that once, because once the DNA is corrected and inserted into the correct cell, that cell should be able to continue its function as normal," he told BBC News.

"We seem to have achieved this concept of one single treatment that does not need to be repeated which is unlike traditional medicines."

Prof MacLaren says that if the next phase of larger trials goes as he anticipates, a gene therapy for choroideremia will be licensed in three years.

He has also begun to develop gene therapy trials to treat more common forms of blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. These could begin as early as next year.

Treating these disorders will be more challenging. Choroideremia is caused by a defect in a single gene, whereas the more common forms of blindness involve several.

But Prof MacLaren believes that the choroideremia trials have laid the ground for the next phase of studies and, crucially, shown that gene therapy for blindness is safe and works.

"When I started my career as an eye surgeon when we had these patients that had inherited diseases, not only did we tell them nothing could be done but we would actually discharge them from the clinics.

"We are now calling them back in to test them, to look at them in great detail because potential treatments are available. To treat a disease at the genetic level is surely the most efficient way of treating a disease, to prevent it from happening in the first place.

"We would like to develop treatments for more common forms of blindness and this may be available in the next five to 10 years," he told BBC News.

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The GuardianNew gene therapy treatment boosts quest for vision loss cures

(28 April 2016)

 

Groundbreaking gene therapy has restored some vision to patients who were going blind.

University of Oxford researchers hope the findings of the small study will lead to potential cures for common causes of vision loss, including genetic-related macular degeneration, which affects thousands of people in the UK.

The results showed some people had improvement in vision for up to four years. They had been suffering from choroideremia, which is caused by a defect in the gene CHM and affects about one in 50,000 people in the UK. Currently there is no cure or treatment for the disease, which progresses slowly, destroying retinal photoreceptors and often leading to complete blindness by middle age.

[...] Prof Robert MacLaren, the lead investigator of the study, said: “There have recently been questions about the long term efficacy of gene therapy, but now we have unequivocal proof that the effects following a single injection of viral vector [carrying the genes] are sustained.

“Even sharpening up the little bit of central vision that these patients have can give them considerable independence. Gene therapy is a new technique in medicine that has great potential. As we learn more about genetics, we realise that correcting faulty genes even before a disease starts may be the most effective treatment.”

Gene therapy involves replacing DNA with DNA that has been programmed in the laboratory to correct faulty genes. MacLaren said: “In this case, success in getting a treatment effect that lasts at least several years was achieved because the viral DNA had an optimal design and the viral vector was delivered into the correct place, using advanced surgical techniques. In brief, this is the breakthrough we have all been waiting for.”

Dr Stephen Caddick, director of innovation at the Wellcome Trust, which helped fund the study, said: “To permanently restore sight to people with inherited blindness would be a remarkable medical achievement. This is the first time we’ve seen what appears to be a permanent change in vision after just one round of treatment. It’s a real step forward towards an era where gene therapy is part of routine care for these patients.”

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BBC NewsGene therapy could help those with macular degeneration

(28 April 2016)

 

 

 

A pioneering new treatment is giving is new hope for those with macular degeneration, a form of blindness that affects hundreds of thousands of elderly people in Britain.

The first trials could take place next year following a clinical study that showed gene therapy improved the vision of patients with a much rarer form of eye disease.

[link to video]

 

 

 

The Daily Telegraph'I was thrilled with my electronic retina'

(25 April 2016)

 

For years Nikki Watson was unable to walk along the country lanes near her Devon home unaided or without using a cane.

In November, just six weeks after having an electronic microchip fitted in her right eye, Nikki, who has been registered blind since the age of 17, found she could walk unassisted. She will never forget the feeling. “I suddenly realised I’d left my husband, Hal, and another friend behind and was walking happily by myself, because I could make out the hedgerow alongside the road,” says Nikki, 49, from Shebbear, in North Devon.

[...] It was a sheer fluke that Nikki learnt about the research being carried out by Prof Robert MacLaren and his team at the Oxford Eye Hospital. “One Saturday I was listening to the Fighting Blindness charity’s Twitter feed. It said the professor was looking for people to participate in the trial. I decided to give it a go.”

Last September, Nikki underwent surgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital to have the microchip implanted below her retina: containing 1,500 tiny electronic light detectors, it sends signals the optic nerve is able to pick up, so patients can begin to regain some sight.

Two days later, she was home, with plastic eye shields to wear outside and at bedtime. Four weeks later, the chip was switched on and doctors began carrying out tests.

“Every time it went on, I saw a bright flash. They had laid out objects to identify. I was asked whether I could see a dinner plate or a circular ring. I said it was a ring. When they told me I was right, I wanted to jump up and kiss the ophthalmologist.”

Arriving home, she switched on her chip and could see there was a letter on the doormat. “I went around the house switching the lights on and off. I was thrilled my brain was starting to interpret what I was seeing.”

[...] Prof MacLaren hopes the microchip will become available to people with the illness within three years.

“Meanwhile, we’re happy to implant chips in people with retinitis pigmentosa. The trial is scientific, so we need them to be completely blind in order to know that the vision they get after implantation is from the chip. To date nine patients have been implanted, and we’re about to do another three.”

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Daily MailWoman who is losing her sight to a rare genetic condition may have a bionic eye fitted with a 'Terminator-style' microchip to help her see

(27 March 2016)

 

A woman who is losing her sight could become the first patient in Scotland to be fitted with a bionic eye.

Alice McCartney, of Govan, Glasgow, is losing her sight to a rare genetic condition, but is set to have a 'Terminator-style' microchip fitted, that will help her to carry on seeing.

Medical experts have already successfully implanted a wafer thin electronic chip into the eyes of a number of men in England.

Once activated, the microchip takes over the work of the retina, helping the brain to see.

The sort of technology has previously been the work of fiction seen in programmes like The Six Million Dollar Man and the Terminator movies.

[...] Alice has been referred to the world's leading bionic eye specialist, Professor Robert MacLaren, who was educated in Edinburgh.

The Scottish expert's Oxford-based team developed the robot eye technology, which could dramatically improve the lives of thousands of people.

[...] 'I am very grateful to have been accepted as a patient at Professor MacLaren's clinic.

'Until then it's a question of monitoring and seeing if my eyes deteriorate further.

'I have watched how it has transformed the lives of others with my serious eye condition.'

Professor MacLaren has been hailed a miracle worker after developing a tiny, ultra-thin microchip packed with light sensors.

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BBC TwoCould bionic eyes help the blind to see again?

(6 January 2016)

 

 

 

Surgeon Gabriel Weston visits the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to follow an NHS funded trial testing a ground-breaking new treatment for patients who have lost their sight.

Retinitis Pigmentosa is an inherited eye disorder that damages the light sensitive cells, or photoreceptors, at the back of the retina causing patients to gradually lose their vision.  There is no cure for this disease but a pioneering new technology is now offering a solution.  At the Oxford Eye Hospital doctors have selected 6 patients to receive the most advanced kind of retinal implant – a tiny electronic chip that is inserted into the eye to replace the damaged photoreceptors and restore elements of vision.  It acts a little like a camera, but sends its electrical signals to the brain, rather than to an electronic screen.

[...] The surgery to implant this device is being carried out by Prof Robert MacLaren and each procedure usually takes around 8 hours.  This is because positioning the chip is an extremely delicate and complex process in which precision is vital – if it isn’t implanted in exactly the right place it could damage the optic nerve and meaningful vision might not be achieved. The implant itself is called the Alpha IMS and is made in Germany.  It is a 3x32mm wireless microchip which captures the light entering the eye and stimulates the optic nerve to deliver signals to the brain. A power supply for the device is implanted behind the ear and patients can adjust the gain and frequency to obtain the best possible signal for different conditions.

If this trial is a success it’s possible that this implant could be made available on the NHS.  Doctors also hope that one day this technology can be applied to other eye diseases such as age related macular degeneration.

[link to full text and video]

 

 

 

BBC NewsBlind Cardiff woman tests 'bionic' eye for the first time

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

A Cardiff woman who has lost her eyesight has been given an electronic implant to restore some of her vision.

Rhian Lewis, 49, has an inherited condition that has left her completely blind in her right eye and with virtually no sight in her left.

But surgeons in Oxford have put a tiny light-sensitive microchip at the back of her right eye.

Here is the moment she tries out the implant for the very first time - as she is asked if she can tell where the hands on a clock face are pointing.

[link to video]

 

 

 

BBC NewsSight joy for Cardiff woman fitted with a 'bionic eye'

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

A blind woman from Cardiff has had some of her sight restored with an electronic "bionic" eye implant.

Rhian Lewis, 49, has described her joy as she could make out the time on a clock face.

Surgeons at Oxford Eye Hospital implanted a tiny light-sensitive microchip at the back of her right eye in an eight-hour operation.

[...] The implant - a 3mm sq array of about 1,500 light sensors which sends pulsed electrical signals to nerve cells - is connected to a tiny computer that sits underneath the skin behind the ear.

This is powered by a magnetic coil on the skin. From the outside, it looks like a hearing aid.

When the device is first switched on, patients see flashes of light, but over a few weeks the brain learns to convert those flashes into meaningful shapes and objects.

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ITVBlind woman says it felt like 'Christmas Day' when bionic eye enabled her to see for first time in years

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

A blind mother-of-two has spoken of her joy at being able to see her children and tell the time for the first time in more than five years after being fitted with a "bionic eye."

[...] During follow-up tests after the implant, Miss Lewis was asked to look closely at a large cardboard clock to see if she could tell the time correctly.

She had not been able to tell the time with her right eye in 16 years and for about six years with her left eye.

Speaking of the moment she realised she could read the clock, Miss Lewis said: "Honest to god, that felt like Christmas day."

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren, who is leading the research at Oxford, said: "It's an amazing process because what Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn't been doing anything for the last 10 years or so. There is a lot of rehabilitation because basically they are learning to see again."

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BBC NewsBionic eye changing woman's life after losing sight

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

A woman who has gradually been losing her sight for years has been describing the joys of being able to see again after being fitted with a bionic eye.

Rhian Lewis, from Cardiff, Wales, was given the retinal implant as part of a trial which could go on to benefit thousands of people suffering from sight loss.

[link to video]

 

 

 

BBC NewsThe Bionic Eye Changing a Woman's Life

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

At Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, a clinical trial is taking place in which six patients who have had little or no sight for many years are having a cutting-edge "bionic eye" implanted in an attempt to give them some sight, and independence, back.

The first patient in this trial is 49-year-old Rhian Lewis, from Cardiff.

[...] She explains: "It was a bit nerve-wracking. I didn't know what to expect.

"They sort of put the magnet to the little receiver there on my head and switched the receiver on. They said I might not get any sensation… and then all of a sudden within seconds there was like this flashing in my eye, which has seen nothing for over 16 years, so it was like, 'Oh my God, wow!' It was just amazing to feel that something was happening in that eye, that there was some sort of signal."

[...] "Now, when I locate something, especially like a spoon or a fork on the table, it's pure elation, you know. I just get so excited that I've got something right. It's really just pure joy to get something right, because I've never done it before - well, not for the last 16 or 17 years anyway."

The surgical team at the Oxford Eye Hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital have been as delighted as Rhian with her progress.

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Russia TodayBlind woman fitted with ‘bionic eye’ sees for first time in 6yrs

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

 

A British mother of three who was given a revolutionary ‘bionic eye’ has spoken of her delight at regaining her vision for the first time in over six years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was offered the retinal implant as part of a trial at the Oxford Eye Hospital. Surgeons based there fitted a tiny electronic chip at the back of her right eye’s retina in a bid to restore her sight.

[...] The study was led by the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology in tandem with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Retina Implant AG.

Professor Robert MacLaren, who is leading the trial, said the restoration of sight to the blind is challenging. However, he stressed the benefits could be huge if the process is executed correctly.

“I am delighted that the trial has started so successfully with the excellent results we have had so far with Rhian,” he said.

“It may not be enough to read things yet, but just enough to navigate would be sufficient,” he added.

“It’s an amazing process because what Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn’t been doing anything for the last 10 years or so and there is a lot of rehabilitation because basically they are learning to see again.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Australian (extended)Bionic eye mum's joy as she tells the time

(5 January 2016)

 

A blind woman fitted with a "bionic eye" has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than five years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital.

[...] During follow-up tests, Miss Lewis was asked to look at a large cardboard clock.

She said "oh my God" when she realised she had managed to tell that the time was three o'clock.

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren, who is leading the research at Oxford, said: "What Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn't been doing anything for the last 10 years or so."

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Irish ExaminerBlind woman from Cardiff regains sight with ‘bionic eye’

(5 January 2016)

 

A blind woman fitted with a ‘bionic eye’ has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than five years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Surgeons at the Oxford Eye Hospital implanted a tiny electronic chip at the back of her right eye’s retina in a bid to help her see.

During follow-up tests, Ms Lewis was asked to look closely at a large cardboard clock to see if she could tell the time correctly.

She had not been able to tell the time with her right eye in 16 years and for about six years with her left eye.

She said “oh my God” when she realised she had managed to tell that the time was three o’clock.

She said: “Honest to God, that felt like Christmas day.”

[link to full text

 


 

The Daily TelegraphBlind mother with 'bionic eye' tells of her joy at being able to tell the time

(5 January 2016)

 

A blind woman fitted with a "bionic eye" has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than five years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital.

Surgeons at the Oxford Eye Hospital implanted a tiny electronic chip at the back of her right eye's retina in a bid to help her see.

[...] During follow-up tests, Mrs Lewis was asked to look closely at a large cardboard clock to see if she could tell the time correctly.

She had not been able to tell the time with her right eye in 16 years and for about six years with her left eye.

She said "oh my god" when she realised she had managed to tell that the time was three o'clock.

She said: "Honest to god, that felt like Christmas day."

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren, who is leading the research at Oxford, said the technology has huge potential benefit.

"It's an amazing process because what Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn't been doing anything for the last 10 years or so," he said.

"There is a lot of rehabilitation because basically they are learning to see again."

Minister for life sciences George Freeman said: "This groundbreaking research to create the world's most advanced bionic eye highlights the crucial role of the NHS as a test bed for 21st century medicine."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The TimesBlind woman sees again thanks to her bionic eye

(5 January 2016)

 

 

 

 

When Rhian Lewis realised that she could see to tell the time again, she cried out: “Oh my God”, adding that it “felt like Christmas Day”.

It was the first time in six years that Miss Lewis, who is blind, had been able to read the hands of a clock, and she did so thanks to a “bionic eye”. She is the first in the UK to receive such an advanced electronic eye, which uses a light-sensitive chip inserted behind her damaged retina to communicate directly with her optic nerve.

[...] With only 1,600 pixels, the chip’s resolution is vastly below that possible with a healthy eye, and all it can do is allow people to recognise rudimentary shapes. Even so, Miss Lewis said it represented a vast improvement in her quality of life.

[...] Miss Lewis said she was grateful for whatever help it can offer, even if her vision isn’t perfect. “It’s been, maybe eight years that I’ve had any sort of idea of what my children look like. I’ve got friends now where I’ve got no idea what they look like. And I certainly don’t know how I’ve aged. Now, when I locate something, especially like a spoon or a fork on the table, it’s pure elation. I get so excited. It’s pure joy to get something right, because I’ve never done it before, well, not for 16 or 17 years anyway.”

[...] Clara Eaglen, from the RNIB, said: “The ‘bionic eye’ retinal implant is a potentially life-changing development. Even a small bit of sight can have a real impact, for some people it could be the difference between leaving the house on their own or not.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The GuardianBritish woman with 'bionic eye' speaks of joy after reading clock for first time in years

(5 January 2016)

 

A blind woman fitted with a “bionic eye” has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than six years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital. Surgeons at the Oxford Eye hospital implanted a tiny electronic chip at the back of her right eye’s retina in an attempt to help her see.

[...] During follow-up tests, Lewis was asked to look at a large cardboard clock to see whether she could tell the time. She had not been able to tell the time with her right eye in 16 years or with her left eye for about six years.

She said “Oh my god” when she realised she had managed to recognise it was three o’clock. She added: “Honest to god, that felt like Christmas Day.”

[...] Prof Robert MacLaren, who is leading the research at Oxford, said the technology had huge potential benefits. “It’s an amazing process because what Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn’t been doing anything for the last 10 years or so,” he said. “There is a lot of rehabilitation because basically they are learning to see again.”

George Freeman, the minister for life sciences, said: “This groundbreaking research to create the world’s most advanced bionic eye highlights the crucial role of the NHS as a test bed for 21st-century medicine.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The IndependentBlind woman sees for first time in five years after being fitted with 'bionic eye'

(5 January 2016)

 


 

A blind woman fitted with a “bionic eye” has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than five years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

[...] Ms Lewis is completely blind in her right eye and has virtually no vision in her left. The implant, made by German firm Retina Implant AG, was placed in Ms Lewis’s eye in June. During follow-up tests, Ms Lewis was asked to look closely at a large cardboard clock to see if she could tell the time correctly. She had not been able to do this with her right eye in 16 years and for about six years with her left eye.

When she realised she could tell that the time was three o’clock, she said “Oh my God! That felt like Christmas Day.” Describing the moment the device was turned on, Ms Lewis said: “They said I might not get any sensation and then all of a sudden within seconds there was this flashing in my eye, which has seen nothing for over 16 years, so it was like, oh wow!”

[link to full text

 

 

 

Daily MailHow bionic eye helped me see again after six years

(5 January 2016)

 

A British woman has told of the ‘pure joy’ she felt after a revolutionary bionic eye allowed her to see for the first time in six years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, said it ‘felt like Christmas Day’ when she was able to read a clock again and could see a car in the street.

The mother of two – who began losing her sight when she was just five years old – can also identify everyday objects such as cutlery once more, as well as enjoy simple pleasures such as seeing the sun shine.

‘It’s pure elation,’ she said.

[...] Seven months on from the procedure, her vision is still improving and it is hoped that one day she will be able to recognise her son and daughter again.

She is the first of at least six Britons to be given the implant in a trial part-funded by the Health Service. Six others have already benefited from a more basic device, and if it continues to impress it could be available on the NHS by 2018.

It is likely to cost around £50,000 – on a par with training a guide dog for the blind.

Lead researcher Professor Robert MacLaren, an eye specialist at Oxford University, said: ‘If we can give someone enough vision to see where they are in their home... then we’ve achieved a great deal. We’re at the start of some very exciting technology.'

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The ScotsmanInnovative ‘bionic eye’ helps blind woman see

(5 January 2016)

 

 

A woman has been fitted with an innovative “bionic eye”, allowing her to see for the first time in more than five years.

[...] Mrs Lewis had suffered from the hereditary disorder retinitis pigmentosa since she was five, which left her completely blind in her right eye and with almost no vision in her left eye.

The incurable condition, which affects around 4,000 people in the UK, causes gradual deterioration of the light-detecting cells in the retina, which can lead  to blindness.

The mother-of-two from Cardiff said it “felt like Christmas Day” when she found she could tell the time during follow-up tests.

[...] The Conservative ­minister for life sciences, George Freeman, said: “This ground-breaking research to create the world’s most advanced bionic eye ­highlights the crucial role of the NHS as a test bed for 21st century medicine.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The HeraldBionic eye treatment allows blind mother to see

(5 January 2016)


 

A blind woman fitted with a “bionic eye” has spoken of her joy after she was able to tell the time for the first time in more than five years.

Rhian Lewis (below), 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

[...] During follow-up tests, Mrs Lewis was asked to look closely at a large cardboard clock to see if she could tell the time correctly. She had not been able to tell the time with her right eye in 16 years and for about six years with her left eye. She saw the time was three o’clock.

She said “oh my god” When She realised she had managed to tell that the time was three o’clock.

She said: “Honest to God, that felt like Christmas Day.”

[link to full text]

 

  

 

Daily Express'It felt like Christmas' Blind woman fitted with BIONIC EYE tells of joy at seeing again

(5 January 2016)

 

A blind woman fitted with a "bionic eye" has spoken of her joy after she was able to read a clock for the first time in more than five years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital.

[...] During follow-up tests, Mrs Lewis was asked to look closely at a large cardboard clock to see if she could tell the time correctly.

She had not been able to read a clock with her right eye in 16 years and for about six years with her left eye.

She said "oh my God" when she realised she had managed to tell that the time was three o'clock.

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren, who is leading the research at Oxford, said the technology has huge potential benefit.

"It's an amazing process because what Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn't been doing anything for the last 10 years or so," he said.

"There is a lot of rehabilitation because basically they are learning to see again."

Minister for life sciences George Freeman said: "This groundbreaking research to create the world's most advanced bionic eye highlights the crucial role of the NHS as a test bed for 21st century medicine."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Daily MirrorBlind mother given 'bionic eye' is able to tell what her children look like for the first time in 8 years

(5 January 2016)

 

 

A blind woman fitted with a "bionic eye" has spoken of her joy after the device partially restored the sight she'd been losing since the age of five.

Rhian Lewis, 49, was given the retinal implant as part of an ongoing trial at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital.

[...] Describing the moment the device was turned on, Mrs Lewis said: "They said I might not get any sensation and then all of a sudden within seconds there was like this flashing in my eye, which has seen nothing for over 16 years, so it was like, oh my God, wow!"

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren, who is leading the research at Oxford, said the technology has huge potential benefit.

"It's an amazing process because what Rhian and others are trying to do is reactivate a part of the brain that hasn't been doing anything for the last 10 years or so," he said.

"There is a lot of rehabilitation because, basically, they are learning to see again."

Minister for life sciences George Freeman said: "This groundbreaking research to create the world's most advanced bionic eye highlights the crucial role of the NHS as a test bed for 21st century medicine."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

 

The SunBlind woman sees again after cutting edge ‘bionic eye’ implant operation

(5 January 2016)

 

 

A blind woman fitted with a “bionic eye” has been able to see for the first time in six years.

Rhian Lewis, 49, can now read a clock, make out cutlery and look at her children’s faces again.

The op, the first time a UK patient has been given a permanent implant to cure blindness, offers hope to thousands of Brits with sight loss.

Afterwards, Rhian cried as she was able to see the time on a large clock. She said: “That felt like Christmas Day.

“It’s been maybe eight years that I’ve had any sort of idea of what my children look like.

“Now when I locate a spoon or a fork on the table it’s pure elation. I just get so excited that I’ve got something right.”

[...] Prof Robert MacLaren, of Oxford Eye Hospital where Rhian had the operation, said: “It could help thousands with sight loss.

“We’re at the very beginning of a very exciting technology.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Week

'Bionic eye' restores sight for UK woman in pioneering op

(5 January 2016)

 

A blind woman from Cardiff who has had some of her sight restored with a "bionic eye" said discovering she was once again able to read a clock "felt like Christmas Day".

[...] When the implant is first fitted, users typically see nothing but flashes of light as the chip feeds electronic signals to the nerves behind the eye. However, within a few weeks the brain learns how to interpret those signals into shapes and objects.

[...] In Lewis's case, she was taken onto the streets of Oxford after her operation and was immediately able to identify a silver car. She said: "I walked up the street and the lady from social services said to me to point out anything I thought might or might not be there.

"And the first thing I thought, 'There might be something there' was a car, a silver car, and I couldn't believe it because the signal was really strong and that was the sun shining on the silver car.

"I was just so excited. I was quite teary. The enormity of it didn't hit me until I'd actually got home, thinking, 'Oh my God, what have I done? I've actually spotted something out that I haven't been able to do.'"

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC NewsEast Yorkshire man's gene therapy helps 'restore' sight

(4 September 2015)

 

 

 

Gene therapy has helped to restore sight to a man with a rare condition which destroys the retina.

Gerry Woolfenden, from Hornsea, East Yorkshire, is one of just a handful of people in the world to have the pioneering surgery.

Damage caused by his choroideremia is now being repaired following his operation in April.

[link to video]

 

 

 

The Saturday PaperFinetuning gene therapy

(21 February 2015)

 

[...] Recently, six patients with a rare, genetic form of blindness called choroideremia were treated using gene therapy. An Oxford University team led by Professor Robert MacLaren injected a corrective gene yoked with AAV directly into the retina of the patients. Reporting in The Lancet last March, he said the virus managed to ferry the gene into the cells of the retina, improving the sight of all the patients. One patient said he could see stars again, which he hadn’t for a “long, long time”. According to MacLaren, the technique could soon help patients with more common causes of blindness, such as age-related macular degeneration.

While the results are hopeful, “the optimist has to be steeled,” says Matthew Simunovic, an ophthalmologist currently working with MacLaren’s team. In 2011, gene therapy was used to treat another genetic form of blindness called Leber’s congenital amaurosis. Initially hailed as a success, by 2013 it emerged that certain cells in the patient’s eye were still deteriorating. This suggests, says MacLaren, “that more work was needed to work out the correct dose of gene therapy”. 

[link to full text]

  

 

 

Nature Curing blindness: Vision quest

 (11 September 2014)

 

[...] Discovering the best timing for the treatment in humans remains a central challenge. Most researchers agree that the best approach is to replace the faulty gene when patients are young, before the degeneration starts or at least when there are more viable cells to save. That could mean doing retinal surgery in someone with good vision — a difficult decision, says Robert MacLaren, an ophthalmologist at the University of Oxford, UK, who is running a gene-therapy clinical trial for another form of congenital blindness. “That is where the risks are greatest, but so are the gains.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Review of OphthalmologyARVO Comes to the City of Magic: Highlights from the posters and papers presented at the 2014 ARVO meeting in Orlando

(1 July 2014)

 

 

The annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology returned to Florida this year after spending 2013 on the West Coast. As in previous years, ARVO 2014 featured a range of topics, with special attention given to new imaging methods, ocular genomics and some exciting reports on the latest gene-therapy efforts. Even as it adopts a changing venue every year, ARVO remains the singular location where basic and clinical ophthalmic research converge. Here’s a sampling of the presentations that caught our eye this year.

Gene Therapy Pushes Forward

One of the most exciting areas of current ophthalmic research is gene therapy. Scientists and clinicians are taking advantage of the unique features of the visual system to make the first efforts at correcting genetic ophthalmic disorders. A prime target for these efforts is choroideremia, a single-locus, x-linked condition that results in a progressive loss of vision over several decades; affected individuals have significant loss of night vision by the second decade and are legally blind by 40 to 50 years of age. The disease is due to the absence of the REP1 gene product, a choroid protein involved in post-translational prenylation. The slow rate of visual decay and small size of the affected gene make this condition an ideal test case for gene therapy. A research group headed by Dr. Robert MacLaren (Oxford Eye Hospital; Oxford, U.K.) recently published results from six patients treated with a functional copy of the REP1 gene packaged in an adeno-associated viral vector designed for choroidal expression. All six patients showed significant increases in VA. [Note by University of Oxford: VA = visual acuity.]

[link to full text]   [link to journal]

 

 

 

Eurotimes Stem Cell Research

 (1 June 2014)

 

 

 

[...] Dr Singh, a vitreoretinal Fellow at Oxford Eye Hospital, UK, and a researcher at the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, said that stem cells could be potentially most beneficial when used in late-stage retinal disease such as advanced age-related macular degeneration and severe retinitis pigmentosa.

“Stem cells really fit into the replacement paradigm for treatment. In early-stage disease, the photoreceptor cells are still present, so gene therapy can be used to target the photoreceptors and make them functional again. In late-stage disease, however, when there are no photoreceptor cells present, the approach has to focus on replacement of the photoreceptors and perhaps the retinal pigment epithelium as well,” he said.

The concept that adult tissues – including the retina – could be generated through stem cell technology was demonstrated by the cloning of Dolly the sheep using somatic cell nuclear transfer in 1996, said Dr Singh.

Another key breakthrough came in 2006 when Robert MacLaren et al succeeded in transplanting photoreceptors directly into the eyes of mice and restored their visual function. The study found that transplanted photoreceptor precursor cells survived and became integrated into the mouse retina. Crucial to the success of the technique was the fact that the cells were isolated when they had reached a certain level of maturity.

Progress has accelerated since then, said Dr Singh, citing his 2013 study performed in Prof MacLaren's laboratory showing that the entire light-sensitive layer could be reconstructed in mice with a complete lack of light-sensing photoreceptor cells in their retinas.

[link to full text]   [link to journal]

 

 

 

Nature  Medical research: Gene-therapy reboot

  (28 May 2014)

 

[...] People who want to move into gene-therapy research would do well to consider eye disorders, says Robert MacLaren, a surgeon at the University of Oxford's Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology in Britain. “About one-third of genetic diseases manifest themselves in the retina,” he says. Retinal cells are also easy to access and can be efficiently targeted with adeno-associated viruses (AAV), which are less likely to trigger an immune reaction or cause cancer than other viruses. “We're in the early stages, but undoubtedly the eye will be the most logical target organ for gene therapy,” he says. “And I think what we learn about gene therapy in the eye will help us to apply the techniques much more effectively to other diseases.”

MacLaren's trial of gene therapy for choroideremia, a rare, inherited form of blindness, triggered much excitement when the results were published in The Lancet in March (R. E. MacLaren et al. Lancet 383, 1129–1137; 2014). Choroideremia is caused by a mutation in a gene called CHM that causes pigment cells in the retina to gradually stop working and die. MacLaren's team inserted a functional copy of CHM into an AAV and then injected it into one retina in each of six men with varying degrees of visual acuity. Five of the men showed improvements in their ability to see a dim light in the dark, and the two patients with the most severe choroideremia were able to read additional lines on an eye chart. These improvements have been sustained in the two years since the single treatment.

Researcher Samantha de Silva recognized the enormous potential of gene therapy for the eye. She had earned a medical degree and was completing her residency in ophthalmology at Oxford Eye Hospital, UK, when her career path veered in an unexpected direction. She heard about MacLaren's upcoming gene-therapy trial and was fascinated. “I really wanted to be involved in gene therapy because it has a great potential to benefit patients,” she says. So she took time off from her residency to pursue a PhD in MacLaren's lab. Three and a half years later, she is in the final stages of her thesis project on gene therapy for retinal degeneration. After she completes her residency, she hopes to combine her research with a career in clinical ophthalmology.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Nature Biotechnology AAV gene therapy continues to woo investors

 (8 April 2014)

 

 

Syncona, the venture arm of London-based charity Wellcome Trust, in January invested £12 ($20) million in an Oxford startup, the first program of which is a gene therapy for inherited blindness. NightstaRx—pronounced 'Nightstar'—is a spin-out from the University of Oxford and its research commercialization unit Isis Innovation. The company is pursuing a therapy for choroideremia (CHM), an inherited X-linked form of progressive blindness, caused by mutations to the gene encoding Rab-escort protein 1 (REP1). The first symptoms occur in childhood with reduced night vision as the retina degenerates. The gene therapy—an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector encoding REP1 designed to deliver the correct version to the cells in the retina—was developed by Robert MacLaren at Oxford's Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology. Vision improvements achieved by six patients were published in the Lancet (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62117-0; 16 January 2014), and a 12-patient phase 1 trial is underway.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Nature Reviews NeurologySensory systems: Promising results in a gene therapy trial for retinal disease

(1 March 2014)

 

Choroideremia is a degenerative disease of the retina caused by mutations in the CHM gene, which encodes Rab escort protein 1 (REP1), ultimately leading to retinal cell degeneration and blindness. In a recent phase I, multicentre clinical trial, Robert MacLaren from Oxford Eye Hospital, UK and his colleagues have demonstrated that gene therapy with an adeno-associated viral 2 (AAV2) vector containing the CHM gene improves visual acuity and retinal sensitivity in patients with choroideremia.

[...] The study was carried out in six male patients aged 35–63 years at different stages of retinal degeneration. Owing to the rate of degeneration, the area of tissue remaining that is available for transduction with the vector varies according to disease progression. The researchers injected the AAV2 vector into the subretinal space of one eye in each patient. At baseline and 6 months after treatment, best corrected visual acuity was measured using the standard Early Treatment for Diabetic Retinopathy Study protocol, and microperimetry was used to map retinal sensitivity.

Two patients who started the study with advanced choroideremia had improved visual acuity at 6 months, with one gaining over two lines and the other gaining over four lines on the Snellen test. The other four patients, who had near-normal vision at baseline, also had improved visual acuity. None of the participants had any detrimental effects from subretinal injection of the vector, which causes retinal detachment, and in all patients the increase in retinal sensitivity in the treated eye correlated with the vector dose administered per mm2 of surviving retina. By contrast, in the untreated control eyes, microperimetry measurements indicated a decline in visual function over the course of the study.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Economist Ingenious: Fixing a body’s broken genes is becoming possible

 (8 February 2014)

 

 

 

IT SOUNDS like science fiction, and for years it seemed as though it was just that: fiction. But the idea of gene therapy—introducing copies of healthy genes into people who lack them, to treat disease—is at last looking as if it may become science fact.

The field got off to a bad start, with the widely reported death of an American liver patient in 1999. In 2003 some French children who were being treated with it for an immune-system problem called SCID developed leukaemia. Since then, though, things have improved. Indeed one procedure, for lipoprotein lipase deficiency (which causes high levels of blood fats, with all the problems those can bring), has been approved, in Europe, for clinical use.

The most recent success, announced last month in the Lancet, was of an experimental treatment for choroideremia, a type of blindness. This is caused by mutation of the gene for a protein called REP1. Without REP1, the eye’s light receptors degenerate. Robert MacLaren of Oxford University used a virus to deliver working versions of the REP1 gene to the most light-sensitive part of the retina. Five of the six participants in the trial duly experienced an improvement in their sensitivity to light. Two were so improved that they could read more letters than previously on a standard eye chart.

[link to full text]

(If you get re-directed to the main www.economist.com webpage when you click on the preceding link, then enter the following URL in your browser address bar: www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21595888-fixing-bodys-broken-genes-becoming-possible-ingenious)

 


 

Daily MailME AND MY OPERATION: How a tiny parcel can deliver DNA to stop eyes going blind

(4 February 2014)

 

[...] About six years ago, I heard about a new treatment for retinitis pigmentosa and saw Professor Robert MacLaren, a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. After examining my eyes, he said I actually had choroideremia, a rare condition affecting 1,000 Britons.

It's caused by a defect in a gene needed for healthy blood vessels in the back of the eye. As a result, the light-sensitive cells in the retina are destroyed.

Most sufferers are classified legally blind by their 40s, so in that sense I was lucky.

Like retinitis pigmentosa, there was no cure or treatment. Choroideremia is passed from mother to son - the defective gene is carried in the  X chromosome. Women have two of these, so a normal X chromosome can compensate for an unhealthy one, making women just carriers.

Professor MacLaren said he was researching gene therapy - putting healthy genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones to correct genetic disorders. He hoped this technique could slow or stop the choroideremia.

[link to full text]

  


  

BloombergWellcome Trust Venture Arm Backs Oxford Blindness Therapy

(30 January 2014)

 

Syncona LLP, the Wellcome Trust- backed venture-capital fund, invested 12 million pounds ($20 million) in an Oxford University spinoff that is developing gene therapy to treat an inherited form of blindness.

Syncona is backing NightstaRx Ltd., which is testing a treatment that uses a modified virus to deliver the choroideremia gene to cells in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

Six patients treated in an early-stage trial of the technology experienced improvement in their dim-light vision and two of them were able to read more lines on an eye chart, according to a study in The Lancet on Jan. 16. The investment is the second time that Syncona has backed a startup since it was founded in 2012 with 200 million pounds from the Wellcome Trust, said Chris Hollowood, a partner at London-based Syncona and chairman of NightstaRx.

“Gene therapy is an extremely exciting area to be in,” Hollowood said in a telephone interview. “This is an opportunity to build an outstanding retinal therapy program.”

About 1 in 50,000 people are affected by the progressive condition, which is caused by a mutation on the choroideremia gene that encodes a protein that sustains cells in the retina, said Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the Oxford, England-based university and a co-inventor. Symptoms begin in childhood with a reduction in night vision.

NightstaRx has licensed the technology from Isis Innovation, Oxford’s technology-transfer arm, Isis technology-transfer team leader Paul Ashley said in a telephone interview. The company has applied to the U.K.’s Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research for a grant to fund a mid-stage trial. If the application is successful, NightstaRx plans to begin that study in October, MacLaren said in a telephone interview.

Syncona’s investment would fund the final-stage trial and enable it to manufacture the treatment to the necessary standard if approved by regulators, he said.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

D News Can Gene Therapy Cure Blindness?

 (22 January 2014)

 

 

 

 

Over the past decade, researchers have been testing gene therapy on blind dogs in attempt to restore vision. Six patients in Oxford had this same treatment done, and they're reportedly cured! Trace shines some light on the subject.

[link to video]

 

 

 

euronews Gene therapy restores eyesight

 (21 January 2014)

 

 

 

 

Restoring sight to people suffering from a rare kind of eye disease – researchers at the University of Oxford have just published the results of a trial, which suggests that tinkering with people’s genes can stop the condition – choroideremia – from causing blindness.

The aim of the new therapy is to replace a defective gene with a healthy one. The defective gene causes the pigment cells in the retina to stop working and eventually die. As the disease progresses, the retina begins to shrink, leading to blindness.

The operation involves detaching the patient’s retina and injecting a virus containing the healthy gene under the retina.

“The choroideremia gene is important for making a protein known as REP1 and when that protein is deficient in the retina the cells gradually die throughout life and they die from the outside in, so patients develop tunnel vision, it gets narrower and narrower and eventually it goes. The concept of gene therapy is to put that protein back into those cells by using a virus to carry the missing gene,” says Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at Oxford University.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4 In Touch: Gene therapy

 (21 January 2014)

 


 

 

Professor Robert MacLaren, from Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, updates us on the latest gene therapy treatment as a cure for sight loss and explains who it may be able to help in the future. [Note by University of Oxford: Professor Robert MacLaren’s interview clip located at 00:47 minutes from the start of the recording.]

[link to audio]

 


  

ABC News Man Saved From Blindness By Gene Therapy

 (20 January 2014)

 

 

At age 10 Nick Tuftnell knew he was going to end up blind after being diagnosed with the genetic condition choroideremia.

The condition leads to the death of light-absorbing cells in the eye. The cells die because of a mutated gene in certain ocular cells, which eventually leads to blindness.

[...] However, two years ago Tuftnell took part in a groundbreaking study where gene therapy was used to treat his deteriorating condition.

The results of the study were published last week in the Lancet Medical Journal.

Tuftnell was one of six patients in a study from the University of Oxford, who underwent gene therapy to help stop the deterioration caused by choroideremia. To help the dying ocular cells, doctors injected working versions of the gene into Tuftnell's eye. The gene can then start to “fix” the cells by patching missing genetic data.

Virus particles were used to deliver the genes in fluid behind the retina.

Dr. Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study, said all the patients had choroideremia, which would eventually have left them blind.

“The key thing about our study that is new is that we’ve gone in before they lost their visual acuity,” said MacLaren, who pointed out that two patients had 20/20 vision before the surgery. “The best way to fix [cells is to] put in the missing gene before they die.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The ScientistGene Therapy Improves Sight

(17 January 2014)

 

 

A few patients with a rare degenerative eye disease, called choroideremia, had partially restored vision following a gene therapy trial to deliver a healthy copy of the gene CHM to the eye. The preliminary trial, published in The Lancet this week (January 16), included six patients with varying degrees of visual impairment. Two patients with poor vision saw improvements after the trial, while those with better vision did not experience any declines.

[...] The study is still in its early stages, but researchers are hopeful it can help slow or stop retinal degeneration in patients with choroideremia and provide a template for treating patients with other forms of visual disease. “We were surprised by the magnitude of vision improvement,” Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in the U.K. and the leader of the clinical trial, told The Wall Street Journal.

One of the patients in the trial, Jonathan Wyatt, told the BBC News: “I felt that I had come to the edge of an abyss.” His vision was deteriorating, but after the trial he could actually see better—three additional lines on an optician’s chart. “I looked down at total blackness. Professor MacLaren tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘come this way, it’s possible to see again.’”

[link to full text]

 

  

 

The LancetPodcast: Focus on Robert MacLaren

(16 January 2014)

 

Robert MacLaren discusses how gene therapy improves eyesight in people born with choroideremia.

[link to audio]

 

 

 

 

BMJGene therapy for inherited blindness shows promise in first clinical trial

(16 January 2014)

 

 

 

The first phase I clinical trial of gene therapy for an inherited cause of blindness has shown sustained improvements in visual acuity.

In the trial, funded by the Department of Health for England and the Wellcome Trust, six patients had genes injected into the retinal cells of one eye, with no adverse effects. Six months later all the patients reported improvements in their vision in dim light, and two of the six, who have now been followed up for up to two years, were able to read more lines on an eye chart.

The six patients who received the gene therapy had choroideraemia, a rare inherited blindness that affects one in 50 000 people and for which there is no treatment.

A third of eye disorders have a genetic basis, and currently around 195 retinal degeneration genes have been characterised. Choroideraemia is caused by a defective CHM gene on the X chromosome so is more prevalent in men. The CHM gene codes for the Rab escort protein REP1 protein. Without the REP1 protein the choroid and retinal pigment epithelium degenerate, and the photoreceptors stop working and die, exposing the sclera.

Underlying changes to the retina begin in childhood and are associated with reductions in parafoveal sensitivity (manifesting as impaired night vision), but good visual acuity is maintained until degeneration encroaches on the fovea. As choroideraemia progresses, the functioning retina shrinks in size, reducing vision and ultimately resulting in complete blindness in middle age.

Gene therapy works by providing cells with a functioning copy of the defective gene. In this study the researchers, from the University of Oxford, spliced the CHM gene into the DNA of an adeno-associated virus and then injected these viral vectors under the retina of one eye of each patient using a very fine needle and a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy (to lift the retina).

The lead researcher, Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, said that the effect of the procedure on the patients’ sight was better than they had expected, because retinal detachment is usually associated with a reduction in visual acuity and night vision.

He said, “It’s a very early stage, but we have six patients with very promising results of improvement of vision verified by independent means that to date has been sustained.” Patients have been followed up for between six months and two years.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

New ScientistGene therapy restores sight in people with eye disease

(16 January 2014)

 

"Before the op, I would look at someone and all I could see for their face was blancmange," says Jonathan Wyatt. "Now, I can see people's faces."

The 65-year-old is one of six people in the world to receive gene therapy for a rare type of inherited eye disease called choroideremia. The first published results of the trial, released today, suggest that tinkering with people's genes can stop the disease from causing blindness – and restore sight in those whose vision has become impaired.

The results could eventually be relevant to the treatment of a much more common cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration, which is caused by whole host of faulty genes. Even more broadly, the positive results are part of a recent trend in gene therapy success, following a shaky start more than 20 years ago.

Choroideremia is caused by defects in the CHM gene, which produces a protein called REP-1 and affects one in 50,000 people. In those who have the disease, a lack of REP-1 means that cells in the retina stop working and slowly begin to die off, causing blindness. When he was in his twenties, doctors told Wyatt that he would be blind by the time he was 50 – and that there was no cure.

Neurons for life

Enter gene therapy, which uses a vector – usually a virus – to insert a functioning copy of a gene into cells with a gene defect and could in principle be used to treat many genetic conditions. Robert MacLaren of the University of Oxford and his colleagues decided to see if it could correct choroideremia.   Starting two years ago with Wyatt, they injected a virus carrying a corrective copy of the CHM gene into the retinas of people with choroideremia.

Today the team reports that of the six people who received the treatment six months ago or longer, all have described improvements in their vision. "The very next day I saw a mobile phone and I said 'I can read the digits!' I hadn't been able to read the digits on a mobile phone for five years," says Wyatt.

All the people in this trial had varying levels of degeneration before the treatment. However, MacLaren is hopeful that the therapy could also be used to stop choroideremia before there is any significant loss of vision.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

MIT Technology Review

 Gene Therapy Tested as a Way to Stop Blindness

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

A new kind of gene therapy has reversed some vision loss in people born with a degenerative eye disease for which there is no existing treatment.

In a first for the field, the treatment can be given to some participants who still had 20/20 vision, albeit in a limited field of vision. By delivering gene therapy at an earlier stage, researchers hope to save more light-sensing cells in the retina.

“We need to push gene therapy forward, to apply it before vision is gone,” says Robert MacLaren, an ophthalmologist at the University of Oxford who led the study. “When retinal damage gets to a certain point, it’s beyond repair.”

MacLaren says earlier treatment could also be particularly important for conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

[...] The experimental treatment adds a working copy of the culpable gene to the retinal cells of patients born with a defective copy. The trial also involved an experimental way of delivering gene therapy to the eye. Each patient’s retina was first lifted, and the gene therapy was injected into the space created under the retina. MacLaren and colleagues report on the condition of six patients in a study published on Wednesday in the Lancet.

[link to full text]

 

 

 Financial Times

Oxford gene trial makes eye disease breakthrough

(16 January 2014)

 


 

 

 

 

 

Medical researchers in Oxford have partly reversed an inherited and previously untreatable eye disease through gene therapy.

The success in correcting the genetic defect responsible for choroideremia, a progressive form of blindness, surpassed the scientists’ expectations. All six patients taking part in their clinical trial experienced an improvement in eyesight.

“We did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity,” said Robert MacLaren, the study leader.

His team at Oxford university reported early results of their clinical trial in the Lancet journal on Thursday. The disorder is caused by a defect in a gene called CHM, which gradually kills light-sensing cells in the retina.

Although it is a rare condition affecting one in 50,000 people, mainly men, Prof MacLaren said similar treatments could help people with more common forms of progressive blindness. “Our findings hold great promise for gene therapy to prevent loss of sight in other retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.”

[...] If the technique proves itself in extended clinical trials during the next two or three years, it will be used on younger patients who have the gene defect but still see well. The researchers believe that once integrated into retinal cells the correct CHM gene will last many years and perhaps a lifetime.

“If we were able to treat people early, get them in their teens or late childhood, we’d be getting the virus in before their vision is lost,” said Prof MacLaren. “If the treatment works, we would be able to prevent them from going blind.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC Radio 4Today: Gene therapy showing 'improvement in vision'

(16 January 2014)

 

 

 

 

Scientists in Oxford have improved the vision of patients who would otherwise have gone blind by injecting genes into their eyes. Toby Stroh, one of the patients who took part in the study, and Robert MacLaren, who led the research, discuss.

[link to audio]

 

 

 

CBS Evening News Gene therapy has clear results for seeing-impaired

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

Sixty-two-year-old Jonathan Wyatt was diagnosed at age 20 with choroideremia, a rare genetic disorder that causes progressive blindness. In recent years, he was unable to read. He was one of six patients in the gene therapy trial. 

Wyatt told CBS News, “When I got home I looked at Diana’s mobile phone and I said, ‘I can see the digits!’’

People with the disease lack a gene that helps the eye make a protein needed for normal vision. When scientists injected a copy of that gene into the eye, the retinal cells started producing the protein. All six patients had improved vision and two, including Wyatt, had dramatic results.

Robert MacLaren of Oxford University led the study.

[link to full text and video]

 

 

 

Fox News Gene therapy improves vision in patients with form of incurable blindness

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

For patients with choroideremia – a rare form of progressive blindness – there are no current treatment options that can help stop their visual degeneration.  But now a new innovative procedure may be the key.

In a new study published in The Lancet, researchers used a novel gene therapy technique on choroideremia patients, which helped restore some of the sight they had already lost over the years.  Gene therapy involves injecting patients with a vital gene that is either missing or defective in their genetic code.

“Gene therapy is exciting; it’s a new type of medicine,” lead author Robert MacLaren, a professor at the University of Oxford, told FoxNews.com.  “And what we’re doing is it on a very small scale, because we’re looking at a very straightforward gene to replace.”

[link to full text]

 


  

CBS Evening News Gene therapy improves vision for some with rare disease

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

Two adults with a rare disease that causes gradual loss of eyesight had their vision improved after being treated with a new gene therapy, according to preliminary results from a new study.

The study involved six patients ages 35 to 63 with choroideremia, an inherited condition with no cure that causes vision problems early in life, and eventually leads to blindness. Patients have a mutation in a gene called CHM, which causes light-sensitive cells in the eye to slowly stop working.

The goal behind the new gene therapy is to use a safe virus to deliver a working copy of the gene to the right part of the eye to prevent the cells from degenerating.

The new study was an early test of the therapy in which the researchers aimed to carry out the treatment without causing damage to the eye. (Patients must have an eye surgery so that the virus can be injected under the retina with a fine needle).

The result showed that the treatment did not cause harm, and in fact, improved vision in a few of the patients.

Six months after the treatment, four patients recovered the visual acuity (clearness or acuteness of vision) that they had before the surgery, and developed increased sensitivity to light. And two patients had improvements in vision: They were able to read two to four more lines on a sight chart.

"We did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity," study researcher Robert MacLaren, of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in the U.K., said in a statement. It is still too early to know if the improvements will last, but they have so far been maintained for as long as two years, MacLaren said.

[link to full text and video]

 


  

NBC News In Surprise Result, Gene Therapy Reverses Blinding Eye Disease

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

 

 

An experimental therapy for a blinding eye disease showed early and surprising promise when it improved the vision of patients in an early trial that was only supposed to test its safety, doctors reported Wednesday.

The experimental gene therapy not only stopped the steady degeneration of the patients' vision, but appears to have reversed some of the damage. And the effects have lasted two years in one case, British researchers report in the Lancet medical journal.

Wayne Thompson of Staffordshire in Britain saw the stars for the first time in years after being treated in April.

"One night in the summer, my wife called me outside as it was a particularly starry evening. As I looked up, I was amazed that I was able to see a few stars," Thompson, 43, said in a statement.

"I hadn't seen stars for a long, long time," he added.

"It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case," says Dr. Robert MacLaren of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, who leads the research team.

"In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity and so we contacted both patients' home opticians to get current and historical data on their vision in former years, long before the gene therapy trial started. These readings confirmed exactly what we had seen," he added in a statement.

[link to full text]

 


  

CTV NewsCanada AM: Gene therapy restores eyesight

(16 January 2014)

 

 

 

[link to video]

 

 

 

BBC News Gene therapy improves vision for patients facing blindness

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

 

Medical researchers in Oxford say they have managed to improve the sight of patients who were going blind because of a rare genetic disorder.

Writing in the medical journal, The Lancet, they say that genes - injected into the patients' eyes - revitalised light detecting cells.

It is hoped it may be possible to extend the treatment to some other conditions that cause loss of vision.

[link to video]

 


  

Sky News

 Gene Therapy Breakthrough Could 'Cure' Blindness

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

The first six patients to be given the experimental injections into the back of the eye were all able to see better in dim light.

And two of them were able to read more lines on an eye chart.

The patients were born with a genetic form of blindness called choroideremia, which affects 1 in 50,000 people, most of them boys, who start to lose their vision in late childhood.

But in a groundbreaking clinical trial, doctors at the Oxford Eye Hospital injected a harmless virus that had been engineered to carry a working copy of the gene that sufferers lack.

The trial was intended to confirm that the injections did not damage the delicate light-sensing cells in the retina.

But the gene therapy had an unexpected therapeutic benefit - and three more patients have now been treated with a higher dose.

Professor Robert MacLaren of Oxford University, who led the trial, said: "In truth we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity.

"It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case."

[link to full text and video]

 

 

 

BBC News Gene therapy 'could be used to treat blindness'

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

 

Surgeons in Oxford have used a gene therapy technique to improve the vision of six patients who would otherwise have gone blind.

The operation involved inserting a gene into the eye, a treatment that revived light-detecting cells.

The doctors involved believe that the treatment could in time be used to treat common forms of blindness.

Prof Robert MacLaren, the surgeon who led the research, said he was "absolutely delighted" at the outcome.

"We really couldn't have asked for a better result," he said.

[link to full text and video]

 


  

RTE News Gene therapy breakthrough in blindness research

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

 

 

Scientists hope early intervention with the surgical treatment will halt progression of the devastating disorder, choroideremia, before patients are robbed of their sight.

It is the first time gene therapy has successfully been applied to the light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina, the digital camera at the back of the eye.

Preliminary results from the first six patients taking part in a Phase One trial surprised and delighted the Oxford University team.

Although the trial was only designed to test safety and dosages, two men with relatively advanced disease experienced dramatic improvements to their eyesight.

The researchers are now planning a larger Phase II trial that will focus on the therapy's effectiveness.

Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the gene therapy operations at Oxford Eye Hospital, said: "We're absolutely delighted with the results so far.

"It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case.

"In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity and so we contacted both patients' home opticians to get current and historical data on their vision in former years, long before the gene therapy trial started.

"These readings confirmed exactly what we had seen in our study and provided an independent verification."

[link to full text and video]

 


  

BBC News Blindness gene therapy trial: 'I don't trip over things any more'

 (16 January 2014)

 

 

 

Researchers in Oxford say they have improved the vision of patients that would otherwise have gone blind.

BBC News reported the start of the trial two years ago - the results of which have now been published in the Lancet.

The so-called gene therapy is for a rare form of blindness called Choroideremia, but the doctors say it could potentially be used to treat the more common form of age-related blindness which affects 300,000 people in the UK and millions across the world.

Jonathan Wyatt was on the verge of losing his sight when he received the treatment two years ago. He told BBC News how his vision has improved.

[link to full text and video]

 

 

 

WiredInjecting genes into the eye improves eyesight, could treat blindness

(16 January 2014)

 

Gene therapy treatment for rare eye disease choroideremia has been shown to not only stall degeneration, but improve the sight of patients involved in the first UK trial.

[...] Choroideremia is a rare genetic disorder, affecting around one in every 50,000 to 100,000 people, mainly men. However the prognosis is definitive -- what begins as a struggle to see in the dark in childhood or the teenage years, progresses on to tunnel vision and will ultimately result in total blindness. It is the result of photoreceptor cells -- light-sensitive cells round the retina -- gradually dying off. The disease is caused by a mutation in the CHM gene, which controls the production of the REP-1 protein. This protein is responsible for the activity of another protein, known as Rab, which controls the movement of proteins within cells. When the CHM gene is faulty, REP-1 is not produced and there's nothing to promote cell activity. This effects the choroids, blood vessels located between the retina and the sclera that provide the retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptors with oxygen. Both the choroids and the retinal pigment epithelium are responsible for thriving photoreceptors, which in turn convert light into electrical impulses our brain translates into images. As the disease progresses, the retina will shrink, thus demising the field of vision.

In 2011, professor Robert MacLaren of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at University of Oxford, working in conjunction with Moorfields Eye Hospital, launched a trial to test the reintroduction of the REP-1 gene in the eye. The 24-month trial involved 12 people, all of whom had the REP-1 gene injected straight to the photoreceptors in the retina using a manmade virus.

[...] The results of the first six months of the trial involving six of the patients has been published in the Lancet, where a synopsis of the results breaks down the progress: "Despite undergoing retinal detachment, which normally reduces vision, two patients with advanced choroideremia who had low baseline best corrected visual acuity gained 21 letters and 11 letters (more than two and four lines of vision). Four other patients with near normal best corrected visual acuity at baseline recovered to within one to three letters. Mean gain in visual acuity overall was 3·8 letters."

MacLaren is hopeful that this trial, albeit in its early stages and concerning a small group with a very specific disorder, could pave the way for gene therapy targeting all manner of degenerative eye disorders and blindness.  "It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case," he said. "The results showing improvement in vision in the first six patients confirm that the virus can deliver its DNA payload without causing significant damage to the retina. This has huge implications for anyone with a genetic retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa, because it has for the first time shown that gene therapy can be applied safely before the onset of vision loss."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Sydney Morning HeraldTreatment may save thousands from blindness

(16 January 2014)

 

London: Thousands of people suffering from common forms of blindness could have their sight restored by a pioneering treatment. Researchers at Oxford University have discovered that by replacing a missing protein in the retina they can prevent cells from degenerating.

The therapy even improves the sight of those who have already begun to go blind in results that have "surpassed expectations".

Two men who were already at an advanced stage of vision loss have experienced  "dramatic improvements" in their sight which, so far, have lasted for two years.

Professor Robert MacLaren, of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, said: "We're absolutely delighted with the results so far.  In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements. This has huge implications for anyone with a genetic retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa because it has, for the first time, shown, that gene therapy can be applied safely before the onset of vision loss."

[link to full text]

 


  

Irish IndependentNew gene therapy operation offers hope to blind

(16 January 2014)

 

Thousands of people with previously incurable forms of blindness could have their sight restored thanks to a pioneering gene therapy that requires only one operation.

In what scientists called a "very promising" first trial, six patients have been successfully treated for choroideremia, an inherited disease which leads to a gradual loss of sight and, eventually, total blindness. While the condition itself is rare, the success of the new treatment holds out the hope that similar methods could be used to halt the progress of other genetic causes of blindness -- including age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause.

The treatment, carried out by a team of scientists led by the University of Oxford's Professor Robert MacLaren, halts the damage done by choroideremia by restoring a defective gene in the retina.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Daily TelegraphGene therapy heralds cure for blindness

(16 January 2014)

 

Thousands of people suffering from common forms of blindness could have their sight restored under a pioneering new treatment.

Researchers at Oxford University have discovered that by replacing a missing gene into the retina they can prevent cells from degenerating.

The therapy even improves the sight of those who have already begun to go blind in results that have ‘surpassed expectations.’

Two men who were already at an advanced stage of vision loss have experienced dramatic improvements in their sight which, so far, has lasted for two years.

Professor Robert MacLaren, of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford said: “We’re absolutely delighted with the results so far.

"In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements.

“This has huge implications for anyone with a genetic retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa because it has, for the first time, shown, that gene therapy can be applied safely before the onset of vision loss.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The TimesNew therapy ‘can reverse sight loss’

(16 January 2014)

 

 

 

Inherited blindness could one day be prevented by a pioneering gene therapy that has reversed sight loss in its first two patients. 

Patients with a rare genetic condition compared the treatment to “turning on the floodlights” after years of deteriorating sight. Oxford scientists hope their method, which corrects a faulty gene by using a virus to implant an “extra chromosome”, could ultimately be used to stop hundreds of thousands of people with conditions such as macular degeneration from going blind. 

Although a treatment will not be routinely available for some time, researchers said they were very optimistic after seeing “dramatic  improvements” in the first stage trial.

The technique has been tested on nine patients with choroideremia, a condition affecting one in 50,000 people where a single faulty gene causes cells in the retina to die off, eventually leading to blindness. 

The results were reported in The Lancet. Professor Robert MacLaren of Oxford University, who led the research, said: “This has huge implications for anyone with a  genetic retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa, because it has for the first time shown that gene  therapy can be applied safely before the onset of vision loss.”

[link to full text]

 

 
 

The GuardianGene therapy partially restores vision in rare blindness disorder

(16 January 2014)

 

Two men with progressive blindness have regained some of their vision after taking part in the first clinical trial of a gene therapy for the condition.

The men were among six patients to have experimental treatment for a rare, inherited, disorder called choroideremia, which steadily destroys eyesight and leaves people blind in middle age.

After therapy to correct a faulty gene, the men could read two to four more lines on an optician's sight chart, a dramatic improvement that has held since the doctors treated them. One man was treated more than two years ago.

The other four patients, who had less advanced disease and good eyesight before the trial, had better night vision after the therapy. Poor sight in dim light is one of the first signs of the condition.

Writing in The Lancet, doctors describe the progress of the patients six months after the therapy. If further trials are as effective, the team could apply for approval for the therapy in the next five years. Some other forms of blindness could be treated in a similar way.

[...] Doctors said the improvements in the two patients went far beyond their expectations, but they cautioned that it was too soon to say whether the effects would last.

"It is still too early to know if the treatment we have initiated is a permanent cure, but so far the vision that we've seen improved has been maintained," said Robert MacLaren, a consultant surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, who led the trial.

[link to full text]

 

 
 

The IndependentPioneering first gene therapy trial opens the door for reversing some previously incurable forms of blindness

(16 January 2014)

 

The sight of thousands of people with previously incurable forms of blindness could be saved thanks to a pioneering new gene therapy that requires just one operation.

In what scientists called a “very promising” first trial, six patients have been successfully treated for choroideremia – an inherited disease that leads to a gradual loss of sight and eventually total blindness.

While the condition itself is rare, the success of the new treatment holds out the hope that similar methods could be used to halt the progress of other genetic causes of blindness – including age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause, which affects 500,000 people in the UK alone.

The treatment, carried out by scientists led by the University of Oxford’s Professor Robert MacLaren, halts the damage done by choroideremia by restoring a defective gene in the retina.

[link to full text]

 

 
 

Daily MailGene breakthrough restores the sight of people with inherited eye disease and could save thousands from blindness

(16 January 2014)

 

A pioneering therapy could prevent thousands of people from going blind through old age.

The treatment, which involves a single injection, has been found to help restore the sight of people who are suffering from inherited eye disease.

Its success in helping two men who were told they would go blind ‘surpassed expectations’ and it could be used to help the hundreds of thousands of people losing their sight through more common,  age-related blindness in future.

Early findings suggest it promotes an improvement for patients on the verge of losing their sight.

It appears to have halted progression of choroideremia, which is caused by a gene defect that destroys light-sensing cells in the retina at the back of the eye.

But researchers said it also had ‘huge’ implications for the treatment of those with common types of blindness affecting retinal cells.

These include age-related macular degeneration – a disorder affecting 200,000 Britons each year for which there is no preventative treatment, although laser surgery and drugs can help.

Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the operations at Oxford Eye Hospital, said he was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the results so far.

‘It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case.

'In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements.’

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Daily MirrorTwo men going blind become first to have their sight restored with revolutionary gene therapy surgery

(16 January 2014)

 

 

Two men going blind from an incurable eye disease have become the first to have their sight restored with pioneering gene therapy, it is revealed today.

Jonathan Wyatt, 65, and Toby Stroh, 56, were born with a genetic condition called choroideremia which causes people to slowly lose their sight.

Their vision had badly deteriorated but Oxford University scientists reversed the problem by injecting a healthy copy of the defective gene into the retina.

Each patient had just one eye treated so researchers could gauge any improvements by comparing it with the other.

[...] During two-hour ops, the researchers injected a virus carrying the healthy gene into the eye. The patients noticed a dramatic improvement after a month and further progress for six months.

The trial, which began two years ago, was mainly designed to see if the procedure was safe. Researchers were stunned when they found out how well it worked.

Four others who have the disease but whose eyesight was still classed as good or excellent were also treated.

Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the study, said the findings, which are reported in The Lancet today, have “huge implications for anyone with a genetic retinal disease”.

Jonathan and Toby may possibly have their other eye treated in future trials.

The procedure could become a licensed therapy in around five years.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The HeraldGene therapy gives sight back to patients due to go blind

(16 January 2014)

 

Pioneering gene therapy has restored vision to two men with a rare inherited eye disease who were told to expect to go blind.

Scientists hope early intervention with the surgical treatment will halt progression of the devastating disorder, choroideremia, before patients are robbed of their sight.

It is the first time gene therapy has successfully been applied to the light-sensitive photoreceptors of the retina, the digital camera at the back of the eye.

Preliminary results from the first six patients taking part in a Phase One trial surprised and delighted the Oxford University team.

Although the trial was only designed to test safety and dosages, two men with relatively advanced disease experienced dramatic improvements to their eyesight.

The researchers are now planning a larger Phase II trial that will focus on the therapy's effectiveness.

Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the gene therapy operations at Oxford Eye Hospital, said: "We're absolutely delighted with the results so far.

"It is still too early to know if the gene therapy treatment will last indefinitely, but we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case.

"In truth, we did not expect to see such dramatic improvements in visual acuity and so we contacted both patients' home opticians to get current and historical data on their vision in former years, long before the gene therapy trial started.

"These readings confirmed exactly what we had seen in our study and provided an independent verification."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The WeekGene therapy: why new technique gives hope to the blind

(16 January 2014)

 

SCIENTISTS at Oxford University have used gene therapy to improve the vision  of six people who would have otherwise gone blind – a breakthrough that could  potentially help thousands of people suffering an inherited form of  blindness.

Professor Robert MacLaren, the surgeon who led the research, said he was  "absolutely delighted" and that his team "could not have asked for a better  result". So how does the technique work and who might it be able to help?

What happened in the trial?

The six patients who took  part in the trial suffered from choroideremia, an inherited cause of blindness  that affects around one in 50,000 people. It is caused by a defective gene that  fails to make the protein needed to keep cells in the retina healthy. These  cells therefore gradually stop working and die. To stop further degeneration of  sight, scientists injected a harmless virus into the eye. This was able to carry  a correct version of the gene into the retina. The process cannot replace dead  cells, but Prof MacLaren believes that it can help heal 'sick' cells and protect  healthy cells.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Wall Street Journal (extended)Gene Therapy Shows Promise in Treating Rare Eye Disease

(15 January 2014)

 

Scientists have improved the vision of a small number of patients suffering from a rare and incurable eye disease by replacing a defective gene with a healthy one—a boost for a technique known as gene therapy.

The patients have choroideremia, a degenerative disease caused by defects in a single gene that leads to blindness and affects 1 in 50,000 people. In an early-stage trial published Wednesday in the Lancet, the researchers used a deactivated virus to safely ferry billions of healthy, lab-made versions of the gene into the retina. That appeared to restore the function of light-sensitive cells, which the disease impairs.

"We were surprised by the magnitude of vision improvement" in the patients, said Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford in England and leader of the clinical trial.

[...] The ailment treated in the Lancet study, choroideremia, is caused by defects in a single gene on the X chromosome and mainly affects boys. Many start losing night vision by age 10 and become legally blind in their 40s.

Because of the defective gene, light-sensitive cells in the retina slowly stop working and then die. Prof. MacLaren's team decided to make healthy versions of the gene in the lab, load each onto a small virus (one that doesn't cause disease in people) and inject the mix under the retina.

The therapy is given in one eye so it's easy to compare the progression of the disease with the untreated eye. "Every injection has 10 billion viral particles, each carrying one copy of the gene," said Prof. MacLaren. "We have to target millions of cells."

[...] The scientists hope to treat patients before their sight falters. "We want to preserve the vision they've got," said Prof. MacLaren. He now plans to test the technique on a larger group of about 30 patients.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

CTV NewsNew gene therapy improves vision in patients with incurable form of blindness

(15 January 2014)

 

 

Researchers in the U.K. have used an experimental gene therapy to restore some vision in patients who are progressively going blind due to a genetic eye disease called "choroideremia."

Researchers at the University of Oxford have treated nine patients who suffer from choroideremia with a new therapy that's designed to replace a defective gene with a healthy one in a single injection.

The results of the first six patients are set to be published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal.

Choroideremia is caused by defects in the CHM gene found on the X chromosome, Oxford's Clinical Ophthalmology group said in a statement.

The missing gene causes the pigment cells in the retina to stop working and eventually die. As the disease progresses, the retina begins to shrink, which causes vision loss.

There is no treatment for choroideremia -- which primarily affects men -- meaning patients progressively lose their vision until they go completely blind.  It is estimated that the disease affects 1 in every 50,000 people.

In the published study, six patients with varying levels of vision were injected with a genetically engineered virus carrying a healthy copy of the missing gene. The virus acts as a delivery vehicle, carrying the missing gene to the retina to replace the defective one.

Six months after the treatment, all of the patients had their vision tested.

All the treated patients showed improvements in their vision in dim light, and one-third of the patients were able to read more lines on an eye chart, the researchers found.

Dr. Robert MacLaren, the study's lead researcher, said the initial findings are groundbreaking and can help researchers studying other eye diseases.

"This has huge implications for anyone with a genetic retinal disease such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa, because it has for the first time shown that gene therapy can be applied safely before the onset of vision loss," he said in a statement.

And while it's too soon to say if the benefits of the gene therapy will last indefinitely, the vision improvements in the six patients have so far been maintained for two years without any side effects, he said.

[link to full text]

 

 
 

ReutersExperimental gene therapy improves sight in patients going blind

 (15 January 2014)

 

(Reuters) - Toby Stroh was in his 20s when his doctor told him he would go blind in his 50s, and his years of playing tennis and being able to drive or work could be gone long before that.

Now aged 56, two years after his retina was deliberately infected with a virus carrying a gene to correct a protein deficiency that was destroying its cells, he is a regular on the tennis court and has a successful career in law.

[...] In the trial, a team led by Robert MacLaren of the University of Oxford, a consultant surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, injected the patients' retinas with a vector - in this case a genetically engineered virus - to deliver a corrective copy of the gene to the appropriate part of the eye.

"The virus has to be delivered to the target cells, which are the cells of the retina," MacLaren explained. To do that, the surgeon performs an operation similar to cataract surgery in which the patient's retina is detached and lifted, and the virus is then injected underneath with a fine needle.

"The virus goes in, infects the cells and puts the protein back into the cells - so we're harnessing the capability of the virus to infect cells and deliver its DNA," he said.

"This is the exciting thing about gene therapy," said MacLaren, whose trial results were published in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday. "We're talking about a single one-off genetic correction ... that has long-standing effects that so far have not been shown to diminish."

The results showed that of the six patients treated - each of them only in one eye so the other could act as a comparison - the two with the least good sight before the gene therapy had significantly improved vision six months later.

In the other four patients, whose vision was only slightly impaired before treatment as they were at earlier stages of the condition, the results confirmed the gene therapy is safe, with the virus delivering its DNA without damaging the retina.

"It is still too early to know if the ... treatment will last indefinitely," MacLaren said. "But we can say that the vision improvements have been maintained for as long as we have been following up the patients, which is two years in one case."

He stressed that the therapy is still in the experimental stage, with more trials likely to take up to five years before it could be submitted for a licence with a view to making it available to all patients.

"If we were able to treat people early, get them in their teens or late childhood, we'd be getting the virus in before their vision is lost," he said. "If the treatment works, we would be able to prevent them from going blind."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Eurotimes Gene Therapy and Retinal Disease

 (1 September 2013)

 

 

 

[...] Other positive news has been emerging from the first clinical trial in humans of a gene therapy for choroideremia, an inherited retinal degenerative disease caused by a defective Rab escort protein-1 (REP1) gene. The disease is X-linked recessive and leads to the degeneration of the choriocapillaris, the retinal pigment epithelium and the photoreceptors of the eye. Starting in October 2011, a team at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford led by Prof Robert E MacLaren of the University of Oxford began treatment of the first of six patients using a modified AAV vector to deliver the replacement gene. With the study outcomes currently under review prior to publication, Prof MacLaren told EuroTimes that the six-month data look very promising.

“What we discovered was that most choroideremia patients have subtle defects in retinal function that are similar in some ways to a mild form of LCA. It is not obvious at first because most can read 6/6 or better on a Snellen chart, but it is easily seen on microperimetry. This is helpful for a gene therapy trial because improvements in visual function serve as an early indicator of successful gene transfer. Of course we do not know early on if the degeneration has stopped, but with an improvement in vision we can at least assume that the transgene has been activated in the cells. The first six patients have now reached the full six month follow-up and we will be reporting our results in full shortly, however, we can say that there have been no serious adverse events in any of these patients and the gene therapy appears to be very well tolerated,” he said.

“What is particularly exciting about this trial is that we can also see for the first time the effects of AAV gene therapy in patients who have a near normal foveal structure and in whom vision is not limited by amblyopia. This is the likely scenario for future gene therapy treatments for most retinal diseases, as it will almost certainly be better to intervene to correct the underlying gene defect before the onset of retinal degeneration,” said Prof MacLaren. Another interesting by-product of the choroideremia trial is that it has gone some way towards confirming what Prof MacLaren has advocated for some time – that treatment of the fovea is indeed possible in gene therapy.

[link to full text]   [link to journal]

 


  

Daily MailInjecting a virus into my eye saved my sight

(19 March 2013)

 

[...] Over the next few years, my peripheral vision became worse, as did my night vision.

Taking our son Theo, now four, to a soft play area was getting harder. In a dim room it would take ages to find him, and if I had to rush I’d worry about colliding with other children.

But it was a relief to know he couldn’t inherit this condition, since it’s carried by the X chromosome, which in boys comes from the mother.

Then three years ago, my uncle, who is a GP with two sons who also have choroideremia, heard a talk by Professor Robert MacLaren, from Oxford University, who was starting the world’s first trial to treat choroideremia.

This would involve injecting the healthy version of the defective gene into the back of the retina to stop the degeneration — and, with luck, even regenerate dying cells.

The gene material would be carried by billions of copies of a tiny virus that had been genetically engineered to carry this missing gene.

It sounded incredibly exciting, so my GP referred me. I saw Professor MacLaren in late 2010, and he agreed I was suitable.

As this gene therapy was so new, they’d treat only the left eye because there was a risk of infection or losing some vision, as they’d need to detach the retina from the optic nerve to inject the gene in. It was daunting, but I was excited, too.

In January last year, I had the 90-minute operation under general anaesthetic. When I woke, the sight in my left eye was blurry, like looking through a dewy car windscreen.

But over the next few months, my sight improved day by day.

I’d test it all the time — looking at the TV guide, or road signs, and now the vision is better than in my right. It is wonderful.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The GuardianRetinal implant restores partial sight to blind people

(20 February 2013)

 

Blind people have described smiles on friendly faces, the food on their plates, and household objects from telephones to dustbins, after surgeons fitted them with electronic chips to partially restore their vision.

Results from the first eight patients to enrol in a clinical trial of the retinal implants show that five found the chips improved their eyesight enough to be useful in everyday life.

All those involved – men and women aged 35 to 62 – had lost their sight to retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that destroys the light-sensitive cells in the eye. The chip stands in for the defunct cells by detecting light rays and converting them into electrical pulses, which are sent along the optic nerve to the brain.

Each patient spent up to 10 hours in surgery to have the 3mm by 3mm chip implanted in one eye. The chip is studded with 1,500 light-sensitive elements that pick up light falling on the macula, the most light-sensitive part of the retina.

[...] Robert MacLaren, a consultant retinal surgeon involved in the trial at Oxford Eye Hospital, said: "We've had success with the implants so far, there is no doubt about that. We've had completely blind patients who were able to see things again, but the technology is still early, we need to develop it further."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

METROBlind Paralympian Tim Reddish has sight partially restored after pioneering eye surgery

(20 February 2013)

 

 

A blind former Paralympic swimming champion’s sight has been partially restored after being fitted with a pair of bionic eyes.

Tim Reddish, 55, can now see vague shapes after having an implant in his retinas that allows him to see for the first time since going completely blind 17 years ago.

[...] ‘I knew there was a risk it might not work at all and I had to accept that,’ he added.

‘But then they said ‘we’re turning it on’, and it was as if a match had been lit in a dark room – it was unbelievable.’

Robert MacLaren, a consultant retinal surgeon involved in the trial at Oxford Eye Hospital, said: ‘We’ve had success with the implants so far, there is no doubt about that.

‘We’ve had completely blind patients who were able to see things again, but the technology is still early, we need to develop it further.’

[link to full text]

 

 

 

ABC News Blind Mice See After Cell Transplant

 (7 January 2013)

 

 

In a scientific feat that borrows from fiction, once-blind mice can see (and run — keep reading to see how) after receiving a retinal injection of light-sensitive cells — an approach that could one day help humans with disabling eye diseases.

“If we transplant cells in large enough numbers at the same developmental stage, these cells are able to interact with themselves and with the retinal environment to re-form the light-sensing layer,” said Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and lead author of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Using a mouse model of retinal degeneration, MacLaren and colleagues tested the effects of transplanted photoreceptor precursor cells — an intermediate between stem cells and the light-sensing cells of the adult eye.

“The cells are transplanted through a very, very fine needle,” said MacLaren, describing the “seeding” hundreds of thousands of cells suspended in liquid between the two planes of the retina. “It’s like lifting up topsoil, sowing the seeds and then rolling it back into position.”

After two weeks, the transplanted cells had replaced the retina’s light-detecting layer, complete with connections to the optic nerve. A pupil constriction test found that 10 of the 12 mice showed an improved response to light, suggesting the once-blind mice could actually see — a finding bolstered by behavioral tests in which the mice, which are nocturnal, ran away from light. Before the transplant, they stayed put.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC News Totally blind mice get sight back

 (6 January 2013)

 

 

 

Totally blind mice have had their sight restored by injections of light-sensing cells into the eye, UK researchers report.

The team in Oxford said their studies closely resemble the treatments that would be needed in people with degenerative eye disease.

Similar results have already been achieved with night-blind mice.

Experts said the field was advancing rapidly, but there were still questions about the quality of vision restored.

[...] Prof Robert MacLaren said: "We have recreated the whole structure, basically it's the first proof that you can take a completely blind mouse, put the cells in and reconstruct the entire light-sensitive layer."

Previous studies have achieved similar results with mice that had a partially degenerated retina. Prof MacLaren said this was like "restoring a whole computer screen rather than repairing individual pixels".

[link to full text]

 


  

Nobel PrizeUnlocking the Secrets of Our Cells: The Nobel Prize

(10 December 2012)

 

 

 

 

This half hour documentary recognises four scientists whose work has enabled huge leaps forward in our understanding of medical research: 2012 Chemistry Laureates Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka and 2012 Medicine Laureates Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka. The Laureates talk about their background, their work, and the story behind their groundbreaking research. Leading scientists explain how this work has influenced them, and patients tell us how they have been helped by these medical developments.  [Note by University of Oxford: the relevant sequences are located at 09:00 minutes and 13:23 minutes from the start of the video.]

[link to video]

 

 

 

The EngineerTwo patients regain sight following retinal implants

(4 May 2012)

 

Two patients have regained partial eyesight thanks to the successful execution of a surgical procedure to embed retinal implants into them.

A team at King’s College Hospital, led by eye surgeon Tim Jackson, carried out retinal implant surgery on a patient last month, in tandem with Prof Robert MacLaren at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

Kings and the Oxford Eye Hospital are two centres taking part in a UK trial of a retinal implant for patients with the degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa.

Both patients — who had no vision prior to surgery — are said to be doing well.

[...] Jackson and MacLaren said: ‘We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce that the first patients implanted in the UK were successful. The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations.

‘This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an important step forward in our attempts to offer people with retinitis pigmentosa a better quality of life.’

[link to full text]

 


  

The Times‘Bionic eye’ offers vision of a brighter future for the blind

(4 May 2012)

 

 

 

The vision of two completely blind men has been partially restored through the use of “bionic” eyes.

Chris James and Robin Millar, both of whom had lost their sight as a result of a condition called retinitis pigmentosa — in which the eye’s light receptors  slowly degrade until they stop working entirely — had the revolutionary  electronic devices implanted last month.

By interacting directly with the optic nerve, the chips, inserted behind the retina, provide the brain with rudimentary images, allowing the patient to  see lights and recognise simple shapes.

The two men are among a select group of 28 international patients to have benefitted from the implants. “It’s the first thing I have seen in 25 years,” Mr Millar said. “At the moment I can tell where the windows are, I can tell where the light source is coming from.”

It is hoped that as his brain adjusts to the visual images the results will improve. “I dreamt in colour the night after I first had the machine switched on,” he added. “I’ve dreamt in vivid colour three or four times since, which I hadn’t done for 25 years. My brain is waking up again.”

The operations were performed at Oxford University Eye Hospital and King’s  College Hospital, London. During a 12-hour procedure, surgeons inserted the 3mm-square microchips, along with a small control unit located behind the  ear.

“It’s like a 1,500-pixel digital camera,” Robert MacLaren, a consultant ophthalmologist at the Oxford hospital, told The Times. “It basically replaces the photoreceptors.”

He hopes that the technique can be extended to patients with different and more common conditions, including macular degeneration, which affects almost a quarter of a million people in Britain. “It wouldn’t be a relevant treatment for someone with optic nerve damage, but most of the untreatable  causes of blindness are due to losing these light-sensitive cells,” he said.  “Every day I deal with people in my job who lose their sight. To be part of this is amazing.”

[link to full text]

 


  

Daily Mail'I've dreamed in colour for the first time in 20 years': Blind British man can see again after first successful implant of  'bionic' eye microchips

(4 May 2012)

 

It was the ‘magic moment’ that released Chris James from ten years of blindness.

Doctors switched on a microchip that had been inserted into the back of his eye three weeks earlier.

After a decade of darkness, there was a sudden explosion of bright light – like a flash bulb going off, he says.

Now he is able to make out shapes and light. He hopes his sight – and the way his brain interprets what the microchip is showing it – will carry on improving.

Mr James, 54, is one of two British men who have had their vision partly restored by a pioneering retina implant.

The other, Robin Millar, one of Britain’s most successful music producers, says he has dreamed in colour for the first time.

Both had lost their vision because of a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, where the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye gradually cease to work.

Their stories bring hope to the 20,000 Britons with RP – and to those with other eye conditions such as advanced macular degeneration which affects up to half a million.

[...] Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal  surgeon at King’s College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of  ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, who are running the trial, say it  has ‘exceeded expectations’ with patients already regaining ‘useful  vision’.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The IndependentBionic eye helps the blind get a glimpse of future

(4 May 2012)

 

 

Three weeks ago, Chris James, who has been blind for 25 years, saw a sudden pulsating light in his left eye, like a camera bulb or a lightning flash.

Doctors had just switched on a wafer-thin, 3mm microchip implanted at the back of his eye. At first all he could see was light. Now he can distinguish shapes and might, in time, even be able to recognise faces.

Mr James's experimental "bionic eye" reacts to light, sending an electronic signal that is picked by the optic nerve and processed by the brain into an image. The treatment could partially restore the sight of thousands of sufferers of a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which causes the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye to deteriorate.

[...] The surgery involves inserting a cable through the layers of the eyeball to place the chip on an area of the retina the size of a pinhead. The chip is connected to a power source implanted behind the ear. "What makes this unique is that all functions of the retina are integrated into the chip," said Professor Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, who carried out the first operation. "It has 1,500 light-sensing diodes and small electrodes that stimulate nerves to create a pixellated image."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The SunBionic eye patient hopes to see his wife for first time after pioneering op

(4 May 2012)

 

 

BLIND Chris James is looking forward to seeing his wife for the first time ever - thanks to a bionic eye implant. 

Chris, 54, is one of two men who have had the tiny 3mm square microchip fitted into their eyes in a pioneering project.

The sensor contains 1,500 electrodes which detect light reaching the back of the eye and convert it into electronic signals which are transmitted to the brain. 

Chris, who lost his sight to a hereditary illness 22 years ago, has now got rudimentary vision which allows him to see the outline of shapes. 

[...] He had the implant fitted during a complex eight-hour operation at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on March 22. 

Afterwards Chris immediately saw the difference between light and dark in his left eye and his vision is gradually improving all the time. 

He added: “Almost immediately I could tell that something was different - I could see light. 

“It’s just a question of learning to see again really - I’m able to try to make out the outlines of circles and squares and things. 

“Obviously it’s going to take a while before I can go for a walk and see everything.

The clinical trials in Britain have been led by Professor MacLaren and Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King’s College Hospital. 

Ten more trial patients are due to be treated but Prof MacLaren and Mr Jackson say the results so far have exceeded expectations. 

They said: “This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is  an important step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life.”

[link to full text]

 


  

Daily ExpressBionic eyes restore the sight of men blind for 20 years

(4 May 2012)

 

TWO blind men can see for the first time in decades after being fitted with “bionic eyes”.

Robin Millar, 60, and 54-year-old Chris James can already distinguish light and some shapes, and it’s expected they will eventually be able to recognise faces.

The pair, who gradually lost their sight to a genetic condition known as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), were the first UK patients to have a special microchip with 1,500 electrodes implanted below the retina.

Doctors who carried out the pioneering surgery in mid-April said results had “exceeded expectations”.

[...] The breakthrough will bring hope for the one in 4,000 people in Britain with RP and a further 25,000 patients with illnesses linked to it.

Ten more sufferers are due to be fitted with the microchip powered by a battery worn behind the ear.

The trials are being led by surgeons Tim Jackson, of King’s College Hospital in London, and Robert MacLaren, of Oxford Eye Hospital. The two doctors said: “We are excited to be involved in this pioneering sub-retinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were ­successful.

“The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations. This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an important step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life.”

[link to full text]

 


  

The Scotsman‘Bionic eye’ returns sight to two men after over 20 years of blindness

(4 May 2012)

 

TWO blind men have regained partial sight for the first time in more than 20 years after becoming the first in Britain to be fitted with a “bionic eye”.  

Scientists said the first clinical trials of the microchip eye implant, which measures just 3mm across and is fitted behind the eyeball, have proved successful and “exceeded expectations”.

Eye experts developing the pioneering new technology said the first group of British patients to receive the implants were regaining “useful vision” just weeks after undergoing surgery, with one of them describing dreaming “in vivid colour” for the first time in 25 years.

The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) – a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.

Retina Implant AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its UK trial. The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed that they were also able to locate white objects on a dark background.

The digital chip operates when light falls on a sensor which is then converted into an electrical signal which is then picked up by nerves and transmitted to the area of the brain that processes images and where it converts the light into grainy black and white images.

The patients have been able to see the rough outline of shapes with doctors hoping that, in the future, once their brains have adjusted they will be able to recognise faces.

[...] Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the trial, which is being led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King’s College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford.

The pair said: “The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations.”

[link to full text]

 


  

The HeraldElectronic eye implant trials prove successful

(4 May 2012)

 

 

THE first UK clinical trials of an electronic eye implant to restore the sight of blind people have proved successful and exceeded expectations, scientists said.

Eye experts developing the pioneering new technology said the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining useful vision just weeks after undergoing surgery.

The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) – a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.

Retina Implant, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its UK trial.

The firm said the patients were able to detect light after the microchip was activated, while later they were also able to locate white objects on a dark background.

Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the British trial, led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

They said: "We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were successful.

"The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations.

"This represents a genuinely exciting development and is an important step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

New York Daily News‘Bionic’ eye implant helps British man regain sight

(3 May 2012)

 

After being blind for more than 20 years, Chris James is regaining the gift of sight thanks to a computer chip implanted at the back of his eye.

The 54-year-old is the first British patient to be fitted with the new chip, which is similar to those found in cell phone cameras.

[...] The chip, developed by German company Retina Implant AG, was inserted behind James' retina at Oxford University Eye Hospital as part of a clinical trial that will be carried out on up to 12 patients.

The implant allows James to see blurry outlines of shapes, and perceive light and darkness, by helping the body convert light that comes in through the eye into the electrical pulses that the brain interprets as images.

[...] A second patient, Robin Millar, has since received a chip.

[...] "It's the first time that British patients who were completely blind have been able to see something," Professor Robert MacLaren, one of the doctors leading the trial, told the BBC.

[link to full text]

 


  

CBS News Man gets bionic eye implant

 (3 May 2012)

 

 

 

Chris James, who had been totally blind for more than 20 years, is the first British patient to be fitted with a digital chip similar to those used in mobile phone cameras.

[link to video]

 

 

 

BBC News Blind man 'excited' at retina implant

 (3 May 2012)

 

 

 

A British man who has been totally blind for many years has had part of his vision restored after surgery to fit a pioneering eye implant.

The device, which was fitted behind the retina, has enabled Chris James to perceive light and even some shapes.

The BBC's Fergus Walsh reports.

[link to video]

 


  

CBS News Eye implants restore vision in two British patients

 (3 May 2012)

 

 

 

Is there a cure for blindness near? Ask the scientists in the U.K. who have restored useful vision in two men who had previously been totally blind.

During clinical trials at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust in the U.K., doctors implanted small wireless devices in two British men who suffered from retinis pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition that leads to total blindness. The microchips, made by German company Retina Implant AG, contain 1,500 tiny electronic light detectors implanted below the retina, which allow the optic nerve to pick up electronic signals and help patients regain sight.

"What makes this unique is that all functions of the retina are integrated into the chip," Professor Robert MacLaren, who led the surgical team, said in a university news release.

Immediately after the electronic eyes were activated, the patients were able to detect light and locate objects on a dark background.

[link to full text and video]

 


  

BBC News Two blind British men have electronic retinas fitted

 (3 May 2012)

 

 

 

Two British men who have been totally blind for many years have had part of their vision restored after surgery to fit pioneering eye implants.

They are able to perceive light and even some shapes from the devices which were fitted behind the retina.

The men are part of a clinical trial carried out at the Oxford Eye Hospital and King's College Hospital in London.

Professor Robert MacLaren and Mr Tim Jackson are leading the trial.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

Irish IndependentHope for blindness cure as eye implant trials successful

(3 May 2012)

 

THE first UK clinical trials of an electronic eye implant designed to restore the sight of blind people have proved successful and "exceeded expectations", scientists said today.

Eye experts developing the pioneering new technology said the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining "useful vision" just weeks after undergoing surgery.

The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) - a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.

Retina Implant AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its UK trial.

The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed there were also able to locate white objects on a dark background, Retina Implant said.

Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the British trial, which is being led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

They said: "We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were successful.

"The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations. This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an import step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life."

[link to full text]

 

 

 

The Daily TelegraphSuccess of electronic eye trial gives hope to the blind

(3 May 2012)

 

The first UK clinical trials of an electronic eye implant designed to restore the sight of blind people have proved successful and "exceeded expectations", scientists said today.

Eye experts developing the pioneering new technology said the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining "useful vision" just weeks after undergoing surgery. 

The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) - a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness. 

Retina Implant AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its UK trial. 

The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed there were also able to locate white objects on a dark background, Retina Implant said. 

Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the British trial, which is being led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

They said: "We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were successful. 

"The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations. This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an import step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life."

[link to full text]

 


  

The Independent'Bionic eye' operation helps blind man to see

(3 May 2012)

 

 

Three weeks ago, Chris James, who has been blind for 20 years, saw a sudden pulsating light in his left eye, like a camera bulb or a lighting flash.

Doctors had just switched on a wafer-thin, 3mm microchip implanted at the back of his eye.

Now he can distinguish shapes and might, in time, even be able to recognise faces.

Mr James' experimental “bionic eye” reacts to light sending an electronic signal that is picked by the optic nerve and processed by the brain into an image. The treatment could partially restore the sight of thousands of sufferers of a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which causes the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye to deteriorate.

“As soon as I had this flash in my eye, it confirmed that my optic nerves are functioning properly which was a really promising sign,” Mr James said. “It was like someone taking a photo with a flashbulb, a pulsating light, I recognised it instantly.”

In March Mr James, a 54-year-old council worker from Wroughton, Wiltshire, underwent an eight hour operation at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to have the chip implanted. A second patient, Robin Millar, 60, a music producer and DJ, had the surgery at Kings College Hospital in London, as part of the first UK clinical trial of the microchip, which has been developed by German company Retina Implant AG.

The surgery involves inserting a fine cable through the layers of the eyeball to place the chip on an area of the retina the size of a pinhead. The chip is connected to a power source implanted under the skin behind the ear.

“What makes this unique is that all functions of the retina are integrated into the chip,” said Professor Robert McLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, who carried out the first operation, assisted by Mr Tim Jackson, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at King's College Hospital in London.

“It has 1,500 light sensing diodes and small electrodes that stimulate the overlying nerves to create a pixellated image. Apart from a hearing aid-like device behind the ear, you would not know a patient had one implanted.”

[link to full text]

 


  

Daily MirrorBionic vision: Amazing new eye chip helps two blind Brits to see again

(3 May 2012)

 

 

An innovative eye implant that works like the chip in a mobile phone camera is helping two blind men to see again.

Chris James, blind for 22 years, and Robin Millar, who has had no sight for 27 years, told of their joy yesterday after becoming the first in the country to benefit from the new technology.

[...] Another 10 Brits with RP will be fitted with the German-made devices in a trial led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King’s College Hospital in London and Robert MacLaren, professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

Prof MacLaren said: “With the new technology and the complexity of everything, we are absolutely delighted. The visual results of these patients have exceeded our expectations.

“We should be very excited by this particularly if – like me – you are involved in telling people they are going to go blind.

"Effectively what we are looking at is the equivalent of if you were working in spinal chord repair and then having a device which could be implanted in a patient’s spinal chord and having them walk again.”

[link to full text]

 

 

 

METROBionic eye implant helps blind Chris James to see again after 20 years

(3 May 2012)

 

 

A blind man has become the first British patient to be fitted with a bionic eye that has given him rudimentary vision.

Chris James has been unable to see for more than 20 years, but now has been fitted with a digital chip in an eight-hour operation.

Light falling on the sensor is converted into an electrical signal that is picked up by nerves and transmitted to the visual processing region of the brain, creating a grainy black and white image.

[...] Mr James said: ‘I’ve always had that thought that one day I would be able to see again.

‘This is not a cure, but it may put the world into some perspective. It’ll give me some imagery rather than just a black world.’

The innovative operation will give the 25,000 families in Britain affected by the condition, for which there is no cure, some hope that their relatives could see again.

Professor Robert MacLaren said the success of surgery was a ‘great relief’ and revealed that the surgeons are ‘absolutely delighted with the result’.

[link to full text]

 

 

 

BBC News Can you build a bionic body? The eye

 (2 March 2012)

 

 

 

Later this year the first eye implant in the UK will take place. A light-sensitive chip will hopefully allow the patient to see with their damaged eye, unlike alternative approaches that use a camera fitted to a pair of glasses.

The light-sensitive chip is attached under the retina at the back of the eye. It converts light into electrical impulses which are then sent to the brain. The patient is then able to interpret the light falling onto the tiny 1,500 pixel implant as recognisable images. The device is powered by a battery fitted behind the ear. The implant costs about £65,000 (US $100,000; 80,000 euros) excluding surgery and maintenance costs.

Clinical trials in Germany have restored sight to some patients who were completely blind due to retinal disease. Miikka Terho, who was once blind due to an incurable inherited condition, was able to read and see basic shapes after the chip was fitted.

Prof Robert MacLaren, will lead the trial at Oxford Eye Hospital, along with Tim Jackson at King's College Hospital. In the video Prof MacLaren demonstrates the Retina Implant.

[link to full text and video]

 

 

 

Daily MirrorBionic eye to be tested in the UK

(22 November 2011)

 

 

 

An artificial eye which returns vision to the blind is being tested in the UK.

A Finnish man who had been blind for 10 years recognised an apple and a banana using a “chip”. It mimics the function of the eye to overcome the effects of retinitis pigmentosa.

Prof Robert MacLaren, leading the study at Oxford University Hospital, said: “This could greatly enhance the quality of life for people with an incurable blinding disease.”

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BBC Radio 4 In Touch: Gene therapy

 (1 November 2011)

 

 

 

Peter White talks to Professor Robert MacLaren about his recent success treating the eye condition choroideremia using gene therapy and says he thinks it could be used to treat other more prevalent conditions such as Retinitis Pigmentosa and Macular Degeneration, in the future. [Note by University of Oxford: Professor Robert MacLaren’s interview clip located at 01:50 minutes from the start of the recording.]

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BBC News Gene therapy: New hopes to halt blindness

 (28 October 2011)

 

 

 

Researchers in Oxford are developing a genetic therapy which they hope could eventually stop people going blind.

They have treated Jonathan Wyatt who is in his 60s and on the verge of losing his sight.

As Pallab Ghosh reports, if the new technique works, the gene therapy could transform the lives of thousands of people in years to come.

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Daily MailScientists use pioneering gene therapy in bid to save man's sight

(28 October 2011)

 

A British man has been given a world-first gene treatment that could save his sight and one day prevent millions from going blind.

Jonathan Wyatt suffers from a hereditary condition which leaves most sufferers completely blind by their 40s.

Known as choroideremia, it is caused by a missing gene, and results in sight deteriorating from childhood. Until now it has been considered incurable.

The former barrister from Bristol developed the disease more slowly than most and, at 63, still has a little vision left.

In a groundbreaking trial led by Oxford University, he became the first person in the world to undergo the treatment, and had ten billion copies of the missing gene injected into his left eye on Monday.

The procedure is not expected to reverse any damage, but a single jab could be enough to stop the disease in its tracks. It will be two years before it is clear if the treatment worked. If it has, Mr Wyatt’s right eye will also be treated.

Eleven more patients in the advanced stages of the condition will be given jabs over the next year.

If successful, the procedure could be in widespread use in as little as two years. Ideally, the jabs will be given to children before their sight starts to fail – stopping them from ever going blind.

What is more, the technique, developed with NHS funding could be adapted to treat other conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, which affects 300,000 Britons and is the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.

Oxford University eye surgeon Robert MacLaren said: ‘This disease has been recognised as an incurable form of blindness since it was first described over 100 years ago.

‘I cannot describe the excitement in thinking we have designed a genetic treatment that could potentially stop it in its tracks with one single injection.’ Choroideremia is normally only diagnosed in men. It affects up to 1,500 Britons and more than 100,000 people worldwide.

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BBC News Gene therapy used in a bid to save a man's sight

 (27 October 2011)

 

 

 

Researchers in Oxford have treated a man with an advanced gene therapy technique to prevent him from losing his sight.

It is the first time that anyone has tried to correct a genetic defect in the light-sensing cells that line the back of the eye.

The president of the Academy of Medical Sciences said the widespread use of gene therapy of this treatment will be soon be possible.

[...] The disease is caused by an inherited faulty gene, called REP1. Without a functioning copy of the gene, the light detecting cells in the eye die.

The idea behind the gene therapy is simple: stop the cells from dying by injecting working copies of the gene into them.

It is the first time that anyone has attempted to correct a gene defect in the light-sensing cells that line the back of the eye.

Mr Wyatt is the first of 12 patients undergoing this experimental technique over the next two years at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

His doctor, Prof Robert MacLaren, believes that he'll know for sure whether the degeneration in Mr Wyatt's eye has stopped within two years. If that's the case his vision will be saved indefinitely.

"If this works with then we would want to go in and treat patients at a much earlier stage in childhood, effectively where they still have normal vision and can do normal things to prevent them from losing sight.

Prof MacLaren believes that if this gene therapy works it could be used to treat a wide variety of eye disorders, including the most common form of blindness in the elderly, macular degeneration.

"That is a genetic disease and I have no personal doubt in future that there will be a genetic treatment for it," he says.

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The Week

The microchip that lets a blind man see

(9 November 2010)

 

 

In what's being called an "amazing step," German researchers have helped people recognize shapes and even letters despite a degenerative disease that had left them blind for years.

[...]

What helped the patients see again?

A microchip implanted beneath their retinas. Researchers at the University of Tuebingen in Germany put the chips into 11 patients who had been blind from two to 15 years as a result of a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa. After the operation, most were able to recognize bright objects. Three could read clocks and decipher some letters, and one was able to read words and distinguish between seven shades of gray. Such miraculous improvement was, "up until now, thought to be in the realms of science fiction," says Robert MacLaren, a British ophthalmologist who plans to perform the first chip implants in the United Kingdom.

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Daily MailThe amazing bionic eye that lets the blind see with the help of a microchip

(5 November 2010)

 

A 46-year-old man thought he would never see again after a devastating eye disease robbed him of his  sight.

Yet these amazing pictures show the moment Miikka Terho was able to identify a banana placed before him and spell out his name after he was fitted with a revolutionary microchip.

The implant is placed at the back of the eye allowing men and women who thought they would never be able to see again to read the hands of a clock and identify everyday objects.

First to benefit will be people with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that gradually destroys the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye leading to total blindness.

But in time, the bionic eye could also be used to treat age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in the elderly, which currently has no cure and affects some 500,000 Britons.

Robert MacLaren, an Oxford University professor of ophthalmology, said: ‘Now when I discuss eye disease with patients, I can, at least in some cases, hold out some hope. For a patient, it will make it easier to deal with the somewhat appalling prognosis that they are going to lose their sight.’

The device, the brainchild of German firm Retina Implant AG, consists of a very thin microchip, just 3mm by 3mm in size and packed with 1,500 light sensors designed to replace those in the retina lost to disease.

Although bionic eyes have been piloted before, this battery-powered implant is the first not to require cumbersome accessories such as a camera mounted on dark glasses.

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Financial Times 

Retina Implant hopes to launch sight chip

(4 November 2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A German company that has developed an electrical chip allowing blind people to partially recover their vision hopes to commercialise its device as soon as the end of next year.

Walter Wrobel, chief executive of Retina Implant, based in Reutlingen, said he planned to seek authorisation for a CE mark during 2011 that would allow the chip to be approved across the EU as a medical device.

The launch – following 15 years of research – would offer fresh hope initially to an estimated 11,000 people across the industrialised world each year who develop retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition that leads to deterioration of the light sensitive cells in the retina.

It could also have potential applications for many more people who develop age-related macular degeneration, which also causes loss of vision, but not the still larger numbers with glaucoma, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy, which causes damage beyond the photo-receptors of the retina.

[...] Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, who is to run a clinical trial next year with the chip in conjunction with colleagues at King’s College, London, said: “In our field, this is pretty much as good as it gets. The technology is absolutely amazing. Medical innovation can take a long time to develop but when it does, it can make a real difference to real lives.”

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CNN Pioneering surgery helping blind to see

 (3 November 2010)

 

 

 

London, England (CNN) -- Second phase trials have started across Europe into pioneering eye surgery that allows some blind people to see.

The technology is the result of 15 years' work by researchers at the University of Tuebingen in Germany led by professor Eberhart Zrenner.

"I think we are like the Brothers Wright when they had the first airplane. ... They proved that flying is possible. We have found that the electronic transmission of images is possible," Zrenner told CNN.

The procedure is unique in that it involves implanting a chip underneath the retina that transforms images into electrical impulses, which then are sent to the brain. Other research under way elsewhere involves the use of cameras and processing units outside the body.

[...] Professor Robert MacLaren of the University of Oxford describes the success of the first clinical trial as a "significant advance" in the technology. He is due to take part in the second phase of the trial in the UK.

"One previously blind patient was able to read his own name with the implant switched on. Up until now, this concept would have been considered only in the realms of science fiction," he said in a statement.

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AljazeeraEye implant helps blind to see

(3 November 2010)

 

 

 

Scientists in Germany have developed an eye implant that allowed three blind patients to see shapes and objects in a breakthrough that could revolutionise eyesight treatment.

Experts have said the device could eventually change the lives of up to 200,000 people who suffer a form of inherited blindness called retinitis pigmentosa.

[...] Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at Britain's Oxford University said the findings were "very exciting".

"It proves the concept that in a patient who has been blind for many years and is unable to see anything, the optic nerves can be re-awakened for them to be able to see again," MacLaren, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters.

"To go from being completely blind for many years, to being able to read a few letters and see shapes is an amazing step."

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ReutersRetinal implant trial helps blind people see shapes

(3 November 2010)

 

 

Scientists have developed an eye implant that allowed three blind patients to see shapes and objects within days of treatment in a trial and say the device could become routine for some kinds of blindness in five years.

Experts described the study results as phenomenal and said the device, developed by German researchers, could eventually change the lives of up to 200,000 people worldwide who suffer from blindness due to a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa.

The device -- known as a sub-retinal implant -- sits underneath the retina and works by directly replacing light receptors that are lost as a result of the disease.

After the light detection stage, it uses the eye's natural image-processing functions to produce a stable visual image.

Eberhart Zrenner, chairman of the University of Tuebingen Eye Hospital in Germany and director of a small company called Retinal Implant AG which is developing the device, said the trial results were a "proof of concept" and would now be taken into further trials in around 25 to 50 patients in Europe.

"We have shown that people can be provided with enough useful vision for daily life," he said in a telephone interview.

[...] Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at Britain's Oxford University and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, who was not involved in this trial, said he was "very excited" by Zrenner's results.

"It proves the concept that in a patient who has been blind for many years and is unable to see anything, the optic nerves can be re-awakened for them to be able to see again. It's of phenomenal significance in that regard," he told Reuters.

"To go from being completely blind for many years, to being able to read a few letters and see shapes is an amazing step."

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The TimesPioneering implant surgery could cure age-related blindness

(3 November 2010)

 

 

 

Eye surgeons have restored the sight of three people using artificial retinal implants. The three, who were unable to see more than a flicker, were able to read large print, recognise objects and tell the time after the surgery.

The pioneering operation, carried out in Germany, represents the first cure for blindness caused by degeneration of the retina, which includes retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and macular degeneration.

The second phase of the trial, which will include 12 British patients who will be treated at the Oxford Eye Hospital and King’s College Hospital in London, is scheduled to begin early next year. Fifteen thousand Britons suffer from RP, for which there is currently no cure, and one in 50 people over the age of 50 suffer from age-related macular degeneration.

“For years I’ve been telling these patients that there’s nothing we can do for them to bring their sight back,” said Robert MacLaren, an ophthalmologist at the University of Oxford and a consultant surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital. “I’m now, happily, eating my words. This is a huge step forward.”

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The GuardianVision chip restores sight to blind man

(3 November 2010)

 

A man left blind by a devastating eye disease has been able to read letters, tell the time and identify a cup and saucer on a table after surgeons fitted him with an electronic chip to restore his vision.

Miikka Terho, 46, began losing his eyesight as a teenager and was completely blind when he joined a pilot study to test the experimental eye chip at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

Terho was one of three patients who had the chip inserted under part of the retina called the macula, where the highest concentration of light-sensitive cells are found. Terho performed particularly well after the implant.

British teams led by consultant retinal surgeons Robert MacLaren at Oxford eye hospital and Tim Jackson at King's College hospital will implant the chip into the first UK patients in a multicentre trial starting early next year.

"The visual results they were able to achieve were, up until now, thought to be in the realms of science fiction," said MacLaren. "There are still, however, many questions as scientists we look forward to answering."

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The IndependentPioneering retina chip helps blind patients see

(3 November 2010)

 

 

 

Revolutionary surgery has helped three blind patients to see again, following the implantation of an artificial retina in an operation which brings hope to thousands of people who have lost their sight.

The two men and a woman could distinguish shapes and objects days after the experimental treatment which involved placing an electronic chip at the back of the eye.

The development is a significant advance on previous attempts to produce a bionic eye, which have relied on a camera and transmitter fitted to a pair of glasses to transmit images to the artificial retina. The new technique relies on the eye itself to transmit the images.

One of the men, 44-year-old Mikka Terho from Finland, was able to identify objects such as a banana and distinguish between a fork, knife and spoon. He could walk around a room without bumping into obstacles, read a clock face and differentiate seven shades of grey.

The three patients were among 11 in the trial who had been blind for at least five years, after losing their sight due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition that destroys the retina and which affects an estimated 20,000 people in the UK. The trial was carried out in Germany using a device made by Retinal Implant. Following its success, a UK trial is to follow next year involving six to 12 patients who will be treated at the Oxford Eye Hospital and Kings College Hospital, London.

Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, who will lead the UK trial, said yesterday: "This represents a major advance in this technology. One previously blind patient was able to read his own name. Until now this would have been considered only in the realms of science fiction. The device is implanted under the retina and it stimulates the retinal nerves in exactly the same way as they would be in a normal person. The eye moves around naturally. An image is formed from the implant in exactly the same way as it would have been before."

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Daily MirrorMiracle eye implant gives blind man vision

(3 November 2010)

 

 

 

A blind man has had his sight restored thanks to a revolutionary eye implant, giving hope to thousands of other sufferers.

Miikka Terho can now find a knife and fork on a table, check the hands on a clock, read his own name and find people in a room. The 46-year-old Finn had the electronic device placed under his retina. It replaces light receptors lost in retinal degeneration and stimulates the eye's image processing. Miikka, who suffered retinitis pigmentosa and was completely blind, said: "It is amazing."

He was one of 11 people to have the device fitted during a trial in Germany. Three were able to see shapes and objects within days. The microchip, connected to a tiny power supply behind the ear, could be a major boost for the 200,000 blinded by retinitis pigmentosa.

A UK trial is due to take place in Oxford next year. Chief researcher Professor Robert MacLaren said: "We should be very excited. This study has shown electrical circuits in the eye can be reawakened by an electrical device many years after the patients go completely blind."

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Daily ExpressMiracle eye implant restores sight to blind

(3 November 2010)

 

A MAN who was totally blind can now read letters of the alphabet and the time on a clock face with a microchip implanted in his eye, it was revealed yesterday.

Experts said hopes of such a leap forward had previously existed “only in the realm of science fiction”.

But now researchers have shown it is possible to restore vision lost to disease with an electronic eye.

The study, by a team in Germany, will offer hope to the 25,000 Britons who are told they will go blind due to an inherited condition known as retinitis pigmentosa.

But it could also eventually treat the 300,000 who have macular degeneration which also leads to blindness. The microchip, smaller than the tip of a pen and containing 1,500 tiny light sensors, fits into a natural space beneath the retina.

When an image comes through the lens of the eye it hits the sensors which send an electrical pulse to nerve cells at the back of the eye. These transmit the message to the brain.

The device is powered by a thin cable that runs from the eye, out of the side of the skull and is attached to a battery behind the ear.

The new study reveals that three patients have been able to see grainy images of objects and recognise shapes after having the device fitted.

[...] Prof Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at Oxford University, will conduct the next trial.

He said: “This is a big breakthrough, no two ways about it. To take someone who is blind and help them see again is pretty incredible.” He added: “The successful testing of this electronic implant in Germany is without doubt a truly significant advance.

“One previously blind patient was able to read his own name with the implant switched on. Until now, this concept would have been considered only in the realms of science fiction.”

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BBC Radio 4 Today: Blindness breakthrough

 (3 November 2010)

 

 

 

Three blind people have had their sight partly restored by new digital implants. Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology at Oxford University, who was involved in the development of the chip and Mikka Terho who was blind but was helped to see when he was used as a test case, outline the breakthrough.

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Scientific AmericanVision Quest: Retinal Implants Deliver the Promise of Sight to Damaged Eyes

(15 June 2010)

 

 

Scientists have been working for decades to create an optical prosthesis that restores at least partial vision to those suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration and other retina-damaging diseases. Some retinal implants have begun to deliver on that promise, but the challenge remains for researchers to develop a technology that, in addition to providing clear images, can be worn comfortably over the long term.

[...] Retina Implant's device is a three- by three-millimeter microelectronic chip (0.1 millimeter thick), containing about 1,500 light-sensitive photodiodes, amplifiers and electrodes that is implanted directly under the retina to generate artificial vision by stimulating inner retina nerve cells. The chip, which is placed in the retina's macular region, absorbs light entering the eye and converts it into electricity that stimulates any still-functioning retinal nerves. This stimulation is relayed to the brain through the optical nerve.

It takes the brain one or two days to adapt to chip-assisted vision, according to Zrenner. "Lines are typically all that can be expected to be seen initially by people with retinal implants," he says. "However, scientists are finding that the human brain can quickly retrain itself to interpret the lines and shapes of different gray levels into meaningful images." With the aid of a chip one Retina Implant patient reported seeing images and words slightly flickering as though they were viewed through small waves at the bottom of a pool, Zrenner adds.

Power (im)plant

"The major advance of the subretinal approach is that the implant itself is light sensitive," says Robert MacLaren, a consultant vitreoretinal surgeon and professor of ophthalmology at University of Oxford's Merton College. MacLaren, who specializes in treating patients with AMD, retinitis pigmentosa, choroideremia and Stargardt disease, is the lead surgeon for Retina Implant's second clinical trial in the U.K. The trials will also be conducted in Germany, Hungary and Italy.

MacLaren likes the idea of placing the implant beneath the retina, where it can stimulate the retina's bipolar cells, which transmit signals from photoreceptors to ganglion cells. "Another advantage is that the implant is placed in the preferred location for stimulating the eye's photoreceptors," he says. "The fact that it's light sensitive simplifies the arrangement, although the actual surgery is still very complicated."

One of the difficulties designing a subretinal implant has been powering the device. Some researchers were hoping to tap light coming into the retina but they found the amount of energy inadequate, according to MacLaren. "This idea of a subretinal implant has been around since the 1970s," he adds. "But it hasn't been proved functional in a trial until Retina Implant did it."

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BBC News Bionic eye to get long-term trial in Oxford

 (25 March 2010)

 

 

 

Scientists at Oxford University have announced the first long-term trial of a new eye implant.

Six patients will get the retinal implant for 12 months. Previous UK trials were limited to three months.

The technology consists of electrodes that replace the retina at the back of the eye and can treat the degenerative disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

It is thought 200,000 people worldwide have RP. The trial will start at the John Radcliffe hospital from May.

Professor Robert MacLaren, Oxford University Nuffield Laboratory of Opthalmology, will lead the trial.

He said: "Recent work ... is very impressive indeed and I would now certainly consider this technology as a viable treatment option for patients blind from RP."

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