A blind man who received a gene for a light-sensing algal protein can now see and touch objects with the help of special goggles, researchers reported recently.
His vision gains are modest—he cannot see colors or discern faces or letters. But if the treatment helps other study participants, it may offer advantages over other vision technologies for severely blind people. And for neuroscientists, the result is a milestone: the first published report of using a relatively new technology called optogenetics to treat a disease in people.
“It’s not the kind of vision people dream of, but it’s a big step,” says Jean Bennett of the University of Pennsylvania, who works on gene therapy for blindness but was not involved in the study.