Researchers give sight to blind chickens
US researchers report: chicks with an inherited disorder that causes
them to be born blind have been injected in-ovo with healthy genes, and when
the treated chicks hatched, they could see.
The gene-transfer raises high hopes for developing a treatment to restore
sight in children with a similar condition, called Leber congenital amaurosis
Type 1, or LCA1.
"I firmly believe this will work," said
neuroscientist Sue Semple-Rowland, the principal researcher from the University
of Florida. "We're really, really close to making it possible to treat kids with
various forms of LCA with gene therapy and have them have a relatively normal
life in terms of vision."
While there is much work still to be done,
she predicted a treatment for humans could come within just a few
The breakthrough with the chickens took 20 years of
painstaking work by Semple-Rowland and her colleagues to determine what caused
the birds' blindness, to isolate the defective gene and then to figure out how
to fix it.
Her lab modified a virus to carry a normal copy of the
gene that is defective in the chickens, a type of Rhode Island Red. After boring
tiny holes in the shells of fertilized eggs, they injected a small quantity of
the virus into the neural tubes of two-day-old embryos, closed up the holes with
a waxed substance and waited for them to hatch almost three weeks
Of seven chicks injected in-utero, six could see after
hatching, said the scientists, whose research is published online Tuesday in the
journal Public Library of Science-Medicine.
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