Monday noon Telecommunications That an international research team has shown that optogenetic therapy was able to partially restore visual function in a patient with retinitis pigmentosa. The finding was reported in the journal Nature Medicine by an international research group led by José-Alain Sahel and Roska Botond.
Ruska Bottond provided the research’s past and future in detail to Hungarian journalists Tuesday morning. The appearance of the prism and the long way to go The researcher described it as a milestone on the road to vision restoration.
The specialist pointed out that all visual diseases develop in the eye or the retina, and the retina plays a very important role in this process. It’s practically a biological computer, it records a video, creates 30 representations of it and transmits it to the brain. The brain does not see what is there, so drawing on these videos the brain is predicting what is in the outside world, Roska Botond illuminates how the retina works.
Inside the retina there are 100 small elements that perform mathematical operations. This should be thought of as a hamburger. The bottom of this is the layer of ganglion cells that communicate with the brain.
The research team studied a group of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa, which is responsible for 20 percent of all blindness cases. In this case, the photosensitive layer ceases to be sensitive to light. It’s like we’re taking off hamburger bread when the photosensitive layer is gone. He explained that our goal is to replant this light-sensitive layer. The idea at first seemed like a simple idea, but it required huge technical advances and we had to develop everything ourselves, he explains.
The professor also talked about the fact that the method of targeting ganglion cells is the simplest available, there is only the best, and there is already advanced research for new methods.
It has come a long way in clinical trials. Initially, experiments were conducted on mice that had regained their vision, then a gene therapy method had to be developed, which was tested in monkeys.
With regard to the clinical trials that were launched in 2018-2019, he explained that once a patient needs an injection then he gets a pair of glasses that show the yellow and amber colors in his eyes. The program in your pocket handles images. 4.5 months after the injection, during which the injected virus begins to develop the protein. Then comes the patient training, and for two and a half months, the patient did not notice anything. Then, while walking down the street, he recognized the pedestrian crossing. That’s when we started the quantitative tests, explaining the details of the clinical trial.
Thanks to this method, the completely blind patient began to see things. This is the first step in the process of restoring vision and hopefully, events will accelerate from now on
Roska Botond also talked about the fact that only one patient can go that route and be treated up to this point right now because the pandemic is entering. But there are still patients participating in this study.
He lost his sight at the age of twenty. During the study, the control condition was when the glasses were not put on.
Roska Botond showed amazing video footage of how a patient was able to find certain objects on the table thanks to the tool and method. You had to find a bigger object on the table first, then find the smaller thing, and then you had to count the number of things you saw on the table, like the number of cups. The last task was to place a transparent object on the table by the doctors and immediately tell the patient where and what he was seeing.
The scans revealed that when the subject is smaller, the patient makes more mistakes. The research also placed multiple electrodes on a patient’s head for examination when they see activity over the visual cortex. Based on the results of the study, we were able to find out whether the object is present or not through the mathematical process.
In response to a question later, he revealed that he had not met the patient and did not want to. He admits that it is important for him not to be emotionally involved in the treatment of the patient, because when I do the analysis and the emotion comes, he can lead astray. I admit that I saw data from the patient’s study before the video itself.
However, he did bring a patient quote to the press, as there has been a lot of interest in him since Monday’s announcement. We also learned from Roska Botond that there is great international interest in the current findings, and today he regularly lectures to journalists from several countries.
To those who mourned their vision loss, I can say that this treatment is full of hope based on its results today.
Tell the patient his peers.
Where is next?
In response to a question, Ruska Bottond explained that she sees two directions for the future.
The first is that with the publication yesterday, a new science has appeared, which is visual rehabilitation.
It is evident from the examination of the patient that the brain needed a lot of time to learn the new language of the eye because the eye speaks a new language to our way and not the old one. Our method does not transmit the same patterns as in a non-sick person. He said that we also need to learn how to teach a person to see.
The other trend is that there are several types of optogenetic strategies and there are much better treatments than the ones just introduced, and these too are in the works. He revealed that there is a separate company for everything I’m not interested in, and these companies are competing with each other. Regarding the companies’ business, he said that investor sentiment is very good now, and these companies can easily get the money. However, how this research will subsequently become a product is not my business, as he pointed out.
What you can promise is that they will never give up. He explained the hunt process as if they were thrown into the ocean in search of islands. We go in one direction, and if we don’t find anything there, we turn back. We make mistakes constantly, but we know one thing: We never give up. I’m sure there will be big clicks on the wall, but we’ll go until we go one step further, ”he pointed to one of the hallmarks of being a researcher.
He also explained that companies that are conducting clinical trials of the methodology are going where there is enough data on blind people and they know the genetics of patients. This is why it is working in collaboration with Semmelweis University in Hungary to create a well-defined group of patients in Hungary, so that when companies using research start moving to different countries, they must also target Hungary.
I’m a researcher, I come up with ideas, and we’re working on solutions that will be useful in 10 years time. My specialty is to see the future: what we can do in 20 years and help them move forward, ”he explained in response to a question.
We are bringing things to people now that we started in 2005
Remember. He also noted that he was contacted by José Alain Sahel in 2007, an ophthalmologist at the largest eye clinic in France, and thus was an institute serious behind Ruska Boutond’s research. They had a publication in Nature about this in 2008, then their research appeared in Science in 2010, and these were the first scientific discoveries when everyone took his work seriously in science.
He also said that his research team focuses on diseases of blindness where there is an optic nerve, and where there is no optic nerve, it is difficult to help. But they already have a program for this when they restore vision to the brain. This, in turn, requires brain surgery.
When asked if he has approached the Nobel Prize with his current achievements, Ruska Bottond replied that these issues are not in the lives of researchers, nor in the prize. He also admitted that he works 14-16 hours a day.
Cover image source: Getty Images
“Food practitioner. Bacon guru. Infuriatingly humble zombie enthusiast. Total student.”