Some important news was reported in Science Daily earlier this year, news of great importance and potential to those suffering with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that slowly steals vision and leads to blindness. More than two million people around the world live with the inherited disease that has no cure.
Science Daily reported on a body of research conducted by scientists at Duke University showing there may be a way to stop the protein build up in ocular cells that causes the disease. Retinitis pigmentosa can be caused by more than 4,000 different gene mutations, creating an enormous challenge for scientists trying to develop treatments and cures.
However, there is one thing going for the researchers; a common factor in all the mutations called “misfolded proteins”. These proteins can’t be processed by cells in the eye and when they build up inside the eye’s cells, it kills them from the inside out.
The scientists at Duke discovered that when they increased the cell’s ability to process those proteins, it prevented them from building up inside the cells. That can delay the decay of vision and consequently, the onset of blindness. One of the authors of the study said that if it became possible to retain “four times the number of functional cells in the eye, that would mean decades more vision in a human being. It’s not a complete cure, but it’s a tremendous delay. This type of treatment has the potential to defer the onset of blindness beyond the human lifespan.”
The findings excited researchers who say that this approach could potentially be applied to slow other neurological diseases like Huntington’s, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
We are always encouraged and hopeful when we see dedicated researchers making progress in unlocking incurable diseases that cause blindness. It’s one reason we support the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB). The foundation is the world’s leading private funder of retinal disease research and to date has raised more than $725 million.
Along with its Clinical Research Institute, the Foundation has funded more than 100 research grants in genetics, gene and stem-cell therapies, retinal cell transplantation and pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies. That research has been pivotal in the identification of more than 250 genes linked to retinal disease and the launch of 20 clinical trials. You can see why one of our executives volunteers as a board member and why we are so excited to be part of this organization and support their work.
In 2019 LVS commits to continuing our tireless efforts to offer professional clinical care, cutting edge technology, navigational support and wayfinding systems to enhance vision, improve quality of life and independence for those living with low vision and/or who are blind.
Our clinical practice and technology division will continue to seek wearable technology like IrisVision, microscope and telescope glasses, and cutting-edge orientation and mobility technology including Sunu Band and RightHear for our patients. We will accomplish this through our unique business approach, partnering, and collaborating, with researchers and tech entrepreneurs to bring their low vision innovations to market as quickly as possible.
In 2019 we will also continue to work directly with businesses and the public sector to implement low vision enhancing systems to improve ADA accessibility, facility/public space navigation, access and inclusion for the visually impaired.
So, here’s to 2019 and the exciting discoveries that may be made in the new year to advance science and cure incurable diseases. Here’s to the hope that those living with low vision and blindness can find support, employment, and the ability to live full lives every day.