Gene therapy heals both eyes and brain

A type of degenerative, congenital blindness has been treated by injecting copies of healthy genes into the retina using viruses. One of the big problems with blindness is that the areas the brain uses to process visual information get lazy and forget how to see, so an important question about this treatment was whether the brain would recover its ability to see.

Results of research with adult volunteers were returned today and apparently the brain doesn’t just rebuild the neural pathways it needs to see, but they become almost as strong and developed as those in a person who has never been blind. The results are very encouraging not only for the blind, but because of what this says about the plasticity of the brain which could be important in the treatment of some neurological problems.