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All major causes of blindness preventable or treatable by 2020?

The September 2016 issue of National Geographic features a story titled "Why There’s New Hope About Ending Blindness". 39 million people worldwide are affected by total blindness, while hundreds of millions more experience some degree of vision loss.

While not every form of blindness is treatable or preventable, the article lists several methods in development to restore at least some vision. Although the goal is to end preventable blindness before 2020, the technology is still in testing and the greatest barrier is delivering treatments to the people who need them.

Two treatment methods focus on repairing damage in the retina itself. Gene therapy targets genetic disorders in eyes by inserting a functional replacement gene into a carrier virus, which incorporates itself into retinal cells. Stem cell therapy aims to replenish damaged or degraded retinas by placing targeted populations of stem cells, which can differentiate into any cell type in the body, in a position to form new rods and cones, the cells essential to sight. Gene therapy is already in clinical use in patients, while stem cell therapy is still in the trial stage.

Another route is a retinal implant. Bionic eyes work just like natural eyes, by collecting and focusing light and relaying the light signals to the brain. Only a handful of people have received an implant so far, and the images produced are little more than areas of light and dark - but the technology is improving.

The World Health Organization reports that 80% of all blindness is preventable or treatable and that the only major remaining non-treatable cause of blindness is age-related macular degeneration. Current treatment efforts can only slow the course of the disease and cannot restore lost sight.

But stem cell trials. . .

Will age-related macular degeneration be preventable or treatable by 2020?

For this question to resolve as positive, a credible news outlet, or press release from the World Health Organization, National Federation of the Blind, or other organization must report that age-related macular degeneration is preventable or treatable, by any means, before December 31, 2020.


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