World First Gene Therapy Trial

A deaf girl has been cured and heard her mum’s voice for the first time following a new gene therapy trial.

Opal, from Oxfordshire, was born deaf from the condition auditory neuropathy: the disruption of nerve impulses travelling from the inner ear to the brain.

After just one procedure, Opal can hear again at almost normal levels.

Professor Manohar Bance from Addenbrooke’s Hospital stated that he’d been waiting his whole career for this moment, and the results were even better than he expected, adding that it seems to be a potential cure for all future patients.

The procedure involved a faulty gene being swapped for a healthy gene to enable the nerves to begin sending signals back to the brain.

After the surgery, Opal turned her heard to the direction of a loud clap. Her parents thought a light had caught her eye and couldn’t believe it when the same thing happened after repeating the clap several times.

The good news continued, just 24 weeks after the surgery, Opal could even hear softer sounds such as whispers.

A second child has undergone the same low dose surgery with similar results.

Soon, a high dose of the genes will be tested, and rolled out to a larger set of children if successful.

Currently, cochlear implants are the best treatment for auditory neuropathy, but this is looking likely to change in the coming years.