Professor John Flannery leads an investigation of a new sight restoration therapy

John Flannery

Professor Flannery

Vision Science faculty member John Flannery, professor at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, leads an investigation of a new sight restoration therapy. “The therapy employs a virus to insert a gene for a common ion channel into normally blind cells of the retina that survive after the light-responsive rod and cone photoreceptor cells die as a result of diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa. Photoswitches – chemicals that change shape when hit with light – are then attached to the ion channels to make them open in response to light, activating the retinal cells and restoring light sensitivity.” UC Berkeley News Center has published an article New Therapy Holds Promise for Restoring Vision.

Last year, Dr. Flannery was presented with the Foundation Fighting Blindness Board of Directors Award. This award recognizes an investigator’s outstanding progress in research that is advancing sight-saving treatments and cures. Dr. Flannery’s groundbreaking work has helped demonstrate that gene therapy is a viable and effective approach to treating blindness, and the 11 clinical trials now underway are a testament to what he proved in the lab. He is also involved in advancing a promising new field of gene therapy research called optogenetics, which has the potential to help people with advanced vision loss, as well as save or possibly restore sight regardless of the gene that is defective.

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