Researchers in Oxford have treated a man with an advanced gene therapy technique to prevent him from losing his sight.
It is the first time that anyone has tried to correct a genetic defect in the light-sensing cells that line the back of the eye.
The president of the Academy of Medical Sciences said the widespread use of gene therapy of this treatment will be soon be possible.
The operation was carried out on 63-year-old Jonathan Wyatt by Professor Robert MacLaren and his team.
It is the first time that anyone has attempted to correct a gene defect in the light-sensing cells that line the back of the eye.
Mr Wyatt is the first of 12 patients undergoing this experimental technique over the next two years at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
His doctor, Prof Robert MacLaren, believes that he’ll know for sure whether the degeneration in Mr Wyatt’s eye has stopped within two years. If that’s the case his vision will be saved indefinitely.
“If this works with then we would want to go in and treat patients at a much earlier stage in childhood, effectively where they still have normal vision and can do normal things to prevent them from losing sight.
Prof MacLaren believes that if this gene therapy works it could be used to treat a wide variety of eye disorders, including the most common form of blindness in the elderly, macular degeneration.