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Vancouver doctor finds possible cure for eye disease 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

(Top) A regular eye. (Bottom) An eye afflicted with aniridia that has no developed iris. (PHOTO COURTESY OF UBC)

(Top) A regular eye. (Bottom) An eye afflicted with aniridia that has no developed iris. (PHOTO COURTESY OF UBC)

Researchers at the University of B.C. and Vancouver Coastal Health believe they've found the potential cure to a rare eye disease that makes the majority of people born with the ailment legally blind.

Aniridia affects about 5,000 people in North America. About 40% of those born with the disease have a mutation that prevents them from ever developing an iris.

This means patients grow up wearing sunglasses or darkened contacts to protect their eyes from light. They can’t read small text, and due to the glaucoma associated with the disease, it’s a problem that gets worse with age.

Dr. Cheryl Gregory-Evans, a professor at both VCH and UBC, told 24 hours using Ataluren eye drops on mice born with the disease appears to restore vision. Her next step is to lead human clinical trials, which are expected to begin in spring 2014.

Previously, it was thought the cure had to be introduced through a mother’s womb to an unborn child. However, the disease seems to inflict people randomly and it’s difficult to determine who might get the disease before they’re born.

“The one really nice thing about this is (it’s) the first time anybody has been able to show a reversal of damage to tissue after birth,” Gregory-Evans said on Sunday.

If the cure works for humans, children could use the drug through eye drops twice a day — for the rest of their lives — to grow their irises and continue protecting them throughout life.

However, it’s not expected to cure adults due to their more advanced conditions and permanent damage. For the mice involved in the study, Gregory-Evans said they were able to grow irises in about two months.




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