A new gene therapy for a rare inherited form of blindness improves vision, according to a review posted Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But the FDA said it is not clear whether the benefits of the new therapy, Luxturna, last in the long run. If approved, Luxturna would be the first gene therapy for an inherited disease—in which doctors insert a corrective gene into a patient—approved in the United States. The developer, Spark Therapeutics, studied the treatment in people with one of many rare inherited retinal diseases and found 93 percent experienced some improvement in vision function. On Thursday, a panel of outside advisers will meet to discuss the treatment and recommend a path forward. Observers say they expect the panel to vote for approval, according to Reuters. —K.C.
Floating wind turbines could generate up to three times as much electricity as land turbines, according to a new study by the Carnegie Institution for Science in Palo Alto, Calif., reviewed by Science Magazine. Researchers examined whether wind turbines installed in the open ocean—where air current is 70 percent stronger than on land—could avoid a problem known as “wind shadow.” On land, turbines deplete the wind strength for downstream turbines, significantly dropping their watts of power per square meter. While researchers used to think wind turbines on land could produce up to 7 watts per square meter, recent modeling shows they only provide about 1 watt per square meter when installed at scale. The Carnegie Institution scientists conducted virtual experiments and found turbines placed in the North Atlantic could produce three times as much power as existing wind farms in Kansas, often avoiding “wind shadow.” Only a few companies now build floating wind farms due to high construction and operating costs. But the study’s authors urged more companies to try, writing that open-ocean wind farms in the North Atlantic alone “could meet the current annual global energy demand.” —Kiley Crossland