By Hillary Kleck
Dr. Manzar Ashtari of the University of Pennsylvania and CHOP has used extensive MRI techniques to examine the brain’s plasticity in response to retina changes performed during gene therapy clinical trials, and the results have been exciting to say the least!
First, what is brain plasticity when we’re talking about retinal gene therapy? In this case, brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to develop and respond to the new input from the retina. The exciting news that Dr. Ashtari’s team has discovered is that their research shows that “retina-brain pathways can be established in LCA patients,” even after decades of near blindness. Even more interesting is that the pathways are strengthened with use after the retina has been treated.
Dr. Ashtari will continue to examine the brain’s response in the trials, as well as work to advance her MRI techniques for finding this information. Sources say that if all goes well, they could be seeking FDA approval in under two years.
For the full story, visit the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ “Eye on the Cure” blog post, Gene Therapy Strengthens the Retina’s Connection to the Brain.