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New blindness treatment saved local teen's sight

A new gene therapy treatment improved the sight of a local teen (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Local teen Misty Lovelace is one of the first in the country to see the results of a new therapy to restore sight.

Ask Misty what got her through some of her darkest days facing vision loss and she'll tell you, "honestly horses, my horse could honestly tell if something is wrong."

Something was wrong. "I started losing vision day after day."

By the time she was referred to Doctor Robert Sisk, an eye specialist at both Cincinnati Eye Institute and Cincinnati Children's Hospital, a disease of the retina she'd had from birth was already advancing.

For much of Misty's life, her vision was dark. Gradually she says after the procedure and therapy her vision improved. "Within 24 hours of the surgery it was so different. It was bright, and clear, and colors were just vibrant, it was unbelievable."

It was all due to a drug she says now approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration called Luxturna. "It is a surgically delivered medication that can enhance the ability to sense dim light, may improve some field of vision, and may have some affects of clarity and color vision."

Doctor Sisk was one of the first to use this type of gene therapy in clinical trials and Misty was able to get the drug as part of his teams research. "Gene therapy is basically creating a genetically engineered virus, delivered to cells in the body, in this case the retina and provides a working copy of the gene, so that those cells can try to function more normally."

Misty says she couldn't be more grateful. "The last doctor told me by the time I was 18, I would wake up blind, and I'm 18 now, so I'm very thankful."

The big drawback is the cost which some reports say could be more than $400,0000 per eye. Doctors are hopeful that insurance will soon cover the drug.

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