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Gene therapy may cure color blindness

A gene therapy technique developed by researchers at the University of Washington has just been used to cure color blindness in adult monkeys.

In the experiment, scientists reprogrammed the color receptors of a pair of squirrel monkeys, which were born color blind, by introducing the human form of the red-detecting opsin gene into a virus and injecting the virus behind the animals' retinas.

Within the first five months after the procedure, the monkeys' color vision improved significantly. Over the past two years, the animals have maintained the ability to see in three shades without any side effects.

A culmination of more than eight years of research, the study may be good news for the 1 in 12 men and 1 in 230 women who are color blind and others suffering from vision problems. The study shows potential for gene therapy to treat adult vision disorders involving the all important cone cells, according to University of Florida researcher William W. Hauswirth, PhD:

Although color blindness is only moderately life-altering, we've shown we can cure a cone disease in a primate, and that it can be done very safely. That's extremely encouraging for the development of therapies for human cone diseases that really are blinding.

Here's a video from the lab:

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