This past weekend, I had the pleasure and the privilege of participating in the 17th International Congress of Retina International in Hamburg, Germany. Retina International is a volunteer association of 33 national groups for people with retinal degenerations. The Congress is the European equivalent of the Foundation’s VISIONS conference. With research presentations translated into several languages, I felt like I was at the United Nations. I myself presented (in English) an update and review of many of the clinical trials underway for retinal degenerative diseases.
I also attended several informational sessions on topics such as emerging gene therapies, stem cell treatments and pharmaceuticals. I was particularly intrigued by a treatment in which very low voltage electricity is used to stimulate, and potentially protect, a retina affected by retinitis pigmentosa or a related condition.
Now please don’t go hooking up your eyeball to an electrical socket — that would be a bad idea on several levels. And even the well-controlled clinical trial of the approach, known as transcorneal electrical stimulation, is still at an early stage. But Dr. Florian Gekeler, from the University of Tübingen, Germany, reported that early results have been encouraging so far; electrical stimulation has had a positive effect on vision for some people.
The treatment is being developed by the German company Okuvision GmbH. The company is expanding the study to get a better sense of this potential treatment’s safety and efficacy. Overall, I think Dr. Frankenstein (and Boris Karloff) would have been impressed.
All in all, it was a very exciting meeting where interesting and promising research results were presented from around the world. I salute Christina Fasser, president of Retina International and a woman affected by retinitis pigmentosa, for organizing a great meeting.
Pictured above: A transcorneal electrical stimulation device developed by Okuvision GmbH