Seville doctors see treatment for blindness in five years

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Spanish doctors are confident that within five years they can find a viable treatment for a common type of hereditary blindness.

10 January 2008

MADRID - Spanish doctors said yesterday they are confident that within five years they can find a viable treatment for a common type of blindness that is caused by an inherited gene.

Last year, a research team in the Virgen del Rocío Hospital in Seville announced that they found the mutant gene that causes a form of progressive blindness as a person gets older. The gene is said to prevent the retina from fully developing.

Working with British researchers, the team took more than 11 years to discover and identify the defective gene.

Guillermo Antiñolo, lead investigator, said that this rare condition affects one out of every 4,000 people.

"It is an ambitious plan if you take into account that the normal period to approve a new medicine or treatment takes about 10 years," said Antiñolo, who is director of the Genetic and Reproduction Unit at the hospital.

Those who have the gene are said to start going blind as they get older, sometime after the age of 20.

The mutation is said to be responsible for 14 percent of all cases of blindness, and to date there is no effective treatment to prevent its effects, researchers said.

Andalusia will budget about EUR 1.1 million over the next five years for a gene therapy program designed to help patients overcome this condition, regional health officials said.

"It is the first time that a team from Andalusia has led the way in gene research into a rare hereditary disease," said María Jesús Montero, health chief for the region.

[Copyright EL PAÍS 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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