Antonio Vento Carvajal was born with a rare genetic condition that causes him to get blisters all over his body, including on his eyes. Despite multiple surgeries to remove scar tissue from his eyes, his vision has steadily deteriorated, making the 14-year-old legally blind.
After joining a clinical trial for a new topical gene therapy gel, Carvajal’s skin began to improve and that led his physician, Dr. Alfonso Sabater, to wonder if the medicine couldn’t be reformulated to work on Carvajal’s eyes. So Sabater reached out to the drug manufacturer with his idea and after two years of testing, they received "compassionate use" approval from the FDA for an eye drop version of the drug.
Out of an abundance of caution, Sabater started off by only treating one of Carvajal’s eyes, but when that proved to be successful, they began using the drops on his other eye. The teen’s sight has improved to the point that Sabater calls it “pretty good." And Carvajal’s mom gets emotional when she thinks about what Sabater has done for her son. "He's been there through everything," she says, "He's not only a good doctor but such a good human being and provided us with hope. He never gave up."