Strange but true


A gene therapy for deafness
When Opal Sandy was a few days old, her parents were told she was completely deaf, but 18 months on, having become the first person in the world to undergo a pioneering gene therapy treatment, she can hear sounds as soft as a whisper and is starting to talk. Opal, from Oxfordshire, was born with auditory neuropathy. A disruption to the nerve signals between the ear and the brain, the condition can be caused by a variation in a gene responsible for
a protein called otoferlin, which affects the sound-sensing hair cells in the inner ear. In an effort to rectify this, doctors used
a harmless virus to deliver a working copy of the gene to the cells in Opal’s right ear – a procedure that took 16 minutes. A cochlear implant was fitted in her left ear at the same time. Three weeks later, she responded to loud clapping, even when her implant was switched off. Her hearing continued to improve and, by February, she could pick up whispers. “The ‘spectacular’ results mark a new era in the treatment of deafness,” said Prof Manohar Bance of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, who is the chief investigator of the global trial.
Eye tattoos
Doctors have urged people to resist
a new trend, much discussed by online influencers, for “eye tattoos”, which permanently change eye colour. For the procedure, performed under local anaesthetic,
a surgeon cuts into the patient’s cornea and injects it with dye. Complications include light sensitivity, infections and dye leakage.
Late starter
A flamingo “unlucky in love” has laid her first egg at the age of 70. Gertrude resides in a flamboyance of more than 65 flamingos at Pensthorpe nature reserve near Fakenham, Norfolk. Her keeper has acknowledged that she is unlikely, given her age, to hatch a healthy flaminglet, but said that many other flamingos at the reserve are sitting on eggs, and that Gertrude is sure to make “a great aunt and babysitter of the impending young”.
Fewer arrests requested
Police chiefs have been told to make fewer arrests because of the shortage of space in prisons in England and Wales. In a memo, chief constables are advised to consider pausing “non-priority arrests” and to suspend operations that could trigger large numbers of arrests. In Scotland, where gaols are also overcrowded, Justice minister Angela Constance said she was considering giving early releases to some inmates serving sentences of fewer than four years and who are not in gaol for sexual offences or domestic abuse.
Bons mots
“Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.” – Rita Mae Brown,
novelist, USA  
 


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