Venus Bennett, who helped reverse an inherited form of blindness in humans, died last month after a short illness, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The 12-year-old Swedish briard was born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a condition caused by a gene mutation that primarily affects the retina. The relatively rare disease affects about 3,500 people in the United States and Europe, but it is one of the most common causes of blindness in children.
“It has transformed [kids’] lives and their parents’ lives,” said Jean Bennett, a University of Pennsylvania ophthalmologist and researcher who, along with her husband, Albert Maguire, a Penn ophthalmologist, carried out the animal studies for the disease.
In 2010, Venus and her pup Mercury were adopted by Bennett and Maguire. The couple petitioned the university to release the dogs after the study was completed, though occasionally the dogs returned for follow-up evaluations, Bennett said.