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.
A separate study, also in mice, found gene editing could be used to stop the progress of glaucoma and the scientists said the same technique might work in humans.
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.”
A paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) said the results of the mice trials “suggest that this approach may be clinically useful in vision restoration in patients with end-stage” retinitis pigmentosa.
“We demonstrate … restoration of visual function, indicating that this therapy could be stable and efficacious in the treatment of patients with end-stage retinal degenerations,” it added.