mRNA technology may deliver genetic fix to hereditary blindness

CORVALLIS, Ore. (KGW) — Promising research at Oregon State University is working on ways to fix blindness for people with rare genetic conditions. The research centers on the same mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our interest is the treatment of blindness. And delivering genes that can connect to some mutations in blindness,” said Gaurav Sahay, lead researcher and associate professor at Oregon State University College of Pharmacy.

Hereditary blindness affects millions of people world-wide. But what if you could get to the problem genes and repair or override the mutation, to cure the blindness.

That’s basically what Oregon State University College of Pharmacy scientists are doing, in conjunction with Oregon Health Science University.

“So what happens in blindness is the specific cell types called the photoreceptors start to die off causes blindness, and so our goal was can we deliver genetic material to these eye cells,” said Sahay.

This is complicated stuff, but it’s part of a very fast-moving field of messenger mRNA work, that’s brought us the COVID-19 vaccines that work by editing genes, to protect us from disease.

In this case it’s gene editing to fix hereditary mutations that cause blindness.  There is still more work to be done, to figure out the correct ‘genetic addresses’ in the eye, to deliver nanoparticle genetic material, to cure blindness.

Part of a medical technology that’s taking off, and expected to help people with all kinds of genetic conditions.

A tsunami has come and sort of like our field especially for delivering genetic medicine to people who otherwise will not have any treatments,” said Sahay.

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