Woman’s blindness cured after DNA edited – and she dyes hair green to celebrate

A woman has dyed her hair green to celebrate being able to see vivid colours for the first time, after undergoing experimental gene therapy for eyesight.

A breakthrough medical experiment saw seven patients with rare eye diseases volunteer to have their DNA modified, with amazing results.

Carlene Knight, 55, whose vision was once so bad that she couldn't see objects or colours, told NPR her vision is now much clearer and brighter following the treatment. She has dyed her hair her favourite colour to celebrate.

"I've always loved colours. Since I was a kid it's one of those things I could enjoy with just a small amount of vision. But now I realise how much brighter they were as a kid because I can see them a lot more brilliantly now. It's just amazing."

Knight and her six fellow patients were born with a rare eye disease called LCA which disables important cells in the eye's retina.

Using the gene editing tool CRISPR, doctors modified cells in their bodies and allowed some of them to see vividly for the first time in years.

Another patient, Michael Kalberer, says he can see colour, shapes, and light much more easily before. The breakthrough came for him on the dancefloor of his cousin's wedding.

"I could see the DJ's strobe lights change colour and identify them to my cousins who were dancing with me. That was a very, vey fun joyous moment."

Kalberer, 43, says it has been 'significant' for his quality of life, helping him to do simple things like eat meals in restaurants more easily.

"It has enabled me to navigate a plate of food and stab food a little bit easier. If I look down at a plate of food and there's a spoon or utensil in it, I can see the edge of the utensil on the outside of the bowl or plate," he said. Kalberer even saw his first ever sunset.

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The treatment didn't work as well for all of the patients, and none have regained typical 20/20 vision. But the volunteers did report improvements around four to six weeks after the experiment, and no significant side effects have occurred.

Doctors say that they expect the vision of the patients to improve over time.

"When you improve the function of the retina, sometimes there's a lag for the brain being able to recognise and use that vision. It takes time to learn how to use that improved vision," said Dr Mark Pennesi, who led the study.

The results are so promising that the doctors have been approved for trials on another round of patients.

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The CRISPR tool works by editing genes in the body, which enables scientists to tackle mutations in cells and replace them with more desirable traits.

In this case, the patients' eye cells weren't working, so the tool allowed the doctors to change the function of the cells that were causing the problem.

Scientists believe that the new technology has some incredible possibilities for treating severe illnesses such as cancer, Huntington's, and hundreds of other illnesses.

  • Technology
  • NHS

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