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Michigan boy receives groundbreaking gene-editing treatment to restore vision

Metro Detroit boy makes medical history with gene-editing treatment
Metro Detroit boy makes medical history with gene-editing treatment 02:18

WARREN, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - An 11-year-old boy in Warren has made medical history. He is one of two children in the world to receive an experimental gene therapy procedure to restore vision. 

"Yes, Jacob is our little science experiment," said Jodie Peckham, the mother of Jacob Peckham.

Jacob was born with Retinitis-pigmentosa 90, a genetic eye condition that was causing him to lose his vision. His family learned he was a candidate for a new gene editing treatment. 

"Just knowing that he could get better, even if it was slightly, I was happy," said Jacob's father, Andrew Peckham.

Jacob said trying a first-in-the-world experimental treatment could be scary but is worth it. 

"I want to help people like me ... Before the surgery ... And then after, it felt like, I don't know, I could experience the world better," said Jacob.

They flew to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for the procedure. Jacob received the surgery on one of his eyes. His father said, simply put, the procedure replaced the "bad genes" in his eye with "good genes."

"They basically put a needle in my eye," said Jacob of the surgery. 

The treatment was tested on 12 adults and two children with a genetic form of vision loss.

"Both patients improved their vision," Aleman said of the young patients. "We were pleasantly surprised that there was a major improvement to this very new therapy never before used in the eye." 

Jacob said that as the weeks went on, his vision improved. The trial study was published two years later, and Jacob was happy with his results. 

"Now I can see farther and clearer," he said. 

Since the procedure, Jacob has gained the confidence to get outside more. He's playing baseball, bowling, and even riding roller coasters. He also is now able to use a cellphone and enjoy video games. 

"I have witnessed that since surgery, 'Wait, you saw that? You can do that? Wait, I normally do that for you," said Jodie Peckham. "So a lot of independence came along with it.

The gene-editing therapy is now going through the FDA approval process. Jacob's younger sister has the same eye condition. The family is hopeful that if the procedure is approved, it could help her and others.  

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