What We’re Reading: Restoring Eyesight; New Moderna Vaccine Indication Possible; COVID-19 Origin Investigation

Optogenics was used to partially restore a blind man’s eyesight; the FDA could soon approve Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use among adolescents; HHS calls for a new investigation into COVID-19’s origins.

New Gene Therapy Restores Sight in Blind Man

Light-catching proteins were grown in the eye of a blind man in France who, with the help of special goggles, can now see blurred outlines of objects, reports an article in Nature Medicine. This novel form of gene therapy is optogenics, and these results mark its first successful use against a neurodegenerative eye disease, “which rob[s] the eyes of essential proteins required for vision.” The treatment transforms ganglion cells into new photoreceptor cells, with the scientists also utilizing algae-derived proteins to sensitize nerve cells to light.

Moderna to Ask FDA for Additional COVID-19 Vaccine Approval

Hoping to gain approval for its COVID-19 vaccine among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, Moderna will submit effectiveness data to the FDA in June, reports The New York Times. Currently only available for persons 18 years and older, the new vaccine data comprise results from 3732 participants. Most notably, efficacy was shown to be 100%, following no reports of symptomatic COVID-19 in the two-thirds who received both doses. Pfizer’s vaccine was similarly approved for use among adolescents aged 12 to 15 years on May 10.

Becerra Stresses Need for New Coronavirus Origins Investigation

Following US intelligence reports that Chinese virology experts were seriously ill before cases of COVID-19 were ever reported in December 2019, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is seeking a more transparent phase 2 investigation into the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reuters. This new effort should again be headed by an international team, he added. Speaking for the World Health Organization (WHO), whose previous report on the pandemic’s origins was met with much criticism, spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic noted that the next step will be to present a proposal to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on studies that cover early detection of cases and clusters and food chain transmission, among others.