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  • Color Blindness May Soon Be Treatable With a Single Injection

    Published May. 28, 2015

    Animal studies are ongoing, Human trials hopefully next

    A one-shot treatment for color blindness may begin human trials as soon as 2017, if current testing goes well. Jay Neitz, Ph.D. and Maureen Neitz, Ph.D., who are both professors of ophthalmology at the University of Washington, have already had success treating color blindness in monkeys using gene therapy. They have been studying color vision for much of their careers.

    The new treatment that the Nietzes are testing uses an injection of an adeno-associated virus — a virus that doesn't make humans sick — to get the genes into the cone cells of the retina. Other successful treatments that they developed required surgery, which is more complicated and more risky. To take the next steps with this treatment, the Nietzes have brought the University of Washington together with Avalanche Biotechnologies to develop the delivery method for the gene therapy.

    For the current testing, an injection is made into the clear fluid in the center of the eye, and the virus finds the correct part of the retina to treat. If the treatment is found to work and approved for use, for some people color blindness could be reduced or cured with a single visit to the ophthalmologist. Injections of other medications into the eye are already routine procedures in most ophthalmologists' offices.

    Experts are cautiously optimistic about this procedure. But more testing is needed to find out if just treating the retina is enough. For full color vision, the brain has to understand the information that comes from the retinas, and the brains of people who are born color blind may have developed differently as they grew up.

    Although the lives of color blind people are undoubtedly affected by their vision, color blindness is not a vision-threatening condition. Some people have questioned how necessary it is to even develop a treatment for color blindness. However, the methods that the Neitzes are developing could contribute to developing treatments for other, more serious retinal problems in the future.

    Want to hear more about the testing as it happens? Visit the Nietzes’ website: