PHILADELPHIA -- Three dogs that were born blind can now see for the first time, thanks to a new type of medical treatment. Researchers say the therapy may someday lead to a treatment for humans born with the same disease or related forms of inherited blindness.
All three dogs had what doctors call Leber congenital amaurosis, caused by a faulty gene. Genes are tiny bits of biological material that control the workings of human cells. Genes determine what we look like and how our bodies function.
Because the dogs had the defective gene, their eyes could not change the images they received into electrical signals to send to the brain. Medical researchers treated the dogs by putting a healthy gene in a virus and then injecting the virus directly into each dog's right eye. The good gene took control soon after. The dogs now see up to 40 percent as well as normal dogs do through their right eyes.
"We're very excited about this," said Jean Bennett, co-leader of the University of Pennsylvania researchers who carried out the study.
Some people are also born with a form of Leber congenital amaurosis. But the researchers said they won't try the technique on human patients until they have determined whether tire beneficial results they achieved with dogs are permanent and whether the therapy is safe.
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