In this report, we describe the development of a modified adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid and promoter for transduction of retinal ON-bipolar cells. The bipolar cells, which are post-synaptic to the photoreceptors, are important retinal targets for both basic and preclinical research. In particular, a therapeutic strategy under investigation for advanced forms of blindness involves using optogenetic molecules to render ON-bipolar cells light-sensitive. Currently, delivery of adequate levels of gene expression is a limiting step for this approach. The synthetic AAV capsid and promoter described here achieves high level of optogenetic transgene expression in ON-bipolar cells. This evokes high-frequency (~100 Hz) spiking responses in ganglion cells of previously blind, rd1, mice. Our vector is a promising vehicle for further development toward potential clinical use.
Choroideremia (CHM) is a slowly progressive X-linked retinal degeneration that results in a loss of photoreceptors, retinal pigment epithelium and choroid. CHM, the gene implicated in choroideremia, encodes Rab escort protein-1 (REP-1), which is involved in the post-translational activation via prenylation of Rab proteins.
The protein CEP290 has recently emerged as a major player in the biology of the cilium and as a causative protein in a number of human syndromic diseases, most of which are associated with the devastating blinding disease Leber congenital amaurosis. (Coppieters et al., Hum Mutat 31, 2010, 1097-1108) CEP290 is known to be an important component of the primary cilium, localizing to the Y-links of the ciliary transition zone and having a role in the regulation of transport in and out of the ciliary compartment (Craige et al., J Cell Biol 190, 2010, 927-940). While many mutations in CEP290 have been identified in human patients, how these mutations result in the spectrum of human disease attributed to the protein remain unknown. As we begin to learn more about the normal role of CEP290, it is likely that we will begin to shed light on how these mutations result in the various CEP290 disease phenotypes. Here we discuss many of these diverse aspects of CEP290 biology and pathology in an attempt to link what we know about the molecular mechanisms of CEP290 function with what we know about CEP290-associated disease.
Zellweger spectrum disorder (ZSD) is a disease continuum that results from inherited defects in PEX genes essential for normal peroxisome assembly. These autosomal recessive disorders impact brain development and also cause postnatal liver, adrenal, and kidney dysfunction, as well as loss of vision and hearing. The hypomorphic PEX1-G843D missense allele, observed in approximately 30% of ZSD patients, is associated with milder clinical and biochemical phenotypes, with some homozygous individuals surviving into early adulthood. Nonetheless, affected children with the PEX1-G843D allele have intellectual disability, failure to thrive, and significant sensory deficits. To enhance our ability to test candidate therapies that improve human PEX1-G843D function, we created the novel Pex1-G844D knock-in mouse model that represents the murine equivalent of the common human mutation. We show that Pex1-G844D homozygous mice recapitulate many classic features of mild ZSD cases, including growth retardation and fatty livers with cholestasis. In addition, electrophysiology, histology, and gene expression studies provide evidence that these animals develop a retinopathy similar to that observed in human patients, with evidence of cone photoreceptor cell death. Similar to skin fibroblasts obtained from ZSD patients with a PEX1-G843D allele, we demonstrate that murine cells homozygous for the Pex1-G844D allele respond to chaperone-like compounds, which normalizes peroxisomal ?-oxidation. Thus, the Pex1-G844D mouse provides a powerful model system for testing candidate therapies that address the most common genetic cause of ZSD. In addition, this murine model will enhance studies focused on mechanisms of pathogenesis.
A phenomenon characterized by the experience of seeing light without any light actually entering the eye is called phosphenes or photopsias. Phosphenes can occur spontaneously or via induction by external stimuli. Previous reports regarding phosphenes have primarily focused on externally induced phosphenes such as by applying alternating or direct current to the cortex. A few of these reports used functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) to study activations induced by cortical phosphenes. However, there are no fMRI reports on spontaneous phosphenes originating from the retina and the resulting pattern of cortical activations. We performed fMRI during a reversing checkerboard paradigm in three LCA patients who underwent unilateral gene therapy and reported experiencing frequent phosphene on a daily basis. We observed bilateral cortical activation covering the entire visual cortices when patients reported experiencing phosphenes. In contrast, in the absence of phosphenes, activation was regulated by patient's visual ability and demonstrated improved cortical activation due to gene therapy. These fMRI results illustrate the potential impact of phosphene perception on visual function and they may explain some of the variability that clinicians find in visual function testing in retinal degeneration. Although we did not perform correlations between visual function and phosphenes, we hope data presented here raises awareness of this phenomenon and its potential effect on visual function and the implications for clinical testing. We recommend a thorough history for phosphene experiences be taken in patients with retinal disease who are candidates for gene or molecular therapy. Lastly, these data illustrate the potential power of fMRI as an outcome measure of gene therapy and the negative impact phosphenes may have on vision testing. fMRI has proven to be a sensitive, non-invasive, and reproducible test paradigm for these purposes and can complement standard visual function testing.
Pupillometry is used clinically to evaluate retinal and optic nerve function by measuring pupillary response to light stimuli. We have developed a mathematical algorithm to automate and expedite the analysis of non-filtered, non-calculated pupillometric data obtained from mouse pupillary light reflex recordings, obtained from dynamic pupillary diameter recordings following exposure of varying light intensities. The non-filtered, non-calculated pupillometric data is filtered through a low pass finite impulse response (FIR) filter. Thresholding is used to remove data caused by eye blinking, loss of pupil tracking, and/or head movement. Twelve physiologically relevant parameters were extracted from the collected data: (1) baseline diameter, (2) minimum diameter, (3) response amplitude, (4) re-dilation amplitude, (5) percent of baseline diameter, (6) response time, (7) re-dilation time, (8) average constriction velocity, (9) average re-dilation velocity, (10) maximum constriction velocity, (11) maximum re-dilation velocity, and (12) onset latency. No significant differences were noted between parameters derived from algorithm calculated values and manually derived results (p?0.05). This mathematical algorithm will expedite endpoint data derivation and eliminate human error in the manual calculation of pupillometric parameters from non-filtered, non-calculated pupillometric values. Subsequently, these values can be used as reference metrics for characterizing the natural history of retinal disease. Furthermore, it will be instrumental in the assessment of functional visual recovery in humans and pre-clinical models of retinal degeneration and optic nerve disease following pharmacological or gene-based therapies.
Mutations in the gene centrosomal protein 290 kDa (CEP290) cause an array of debilitating and phenotypically distinct human diseases, ranging from the devastating blinding disease Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) to Senior-Løken syndrome, Joubert syndrome, and the lethal Meckel-Gruber syndrome. Despite its critical role in biology and disease, very little is known about CEP290s function. Here, we have identified 4 functional domains of the protein. We found that CEP290 directly binds to cellular membranes through an N-terminal domain that includes a highly conserved amphipathic helix motif and to microtubules through a domain located within its myosin-tail homology domain. Furthermore, CEP290 activity was regulated by 2 autoinhibitory domains within its N and C termini, both of which were found to play critical roles in regulating ciliogenesis. Disruption of the microtubule-binding domain in a mouse model of LCA was sufficient to induce significant deficits in cilium formation, which led to retinal degeneration. These data implicate CEP290 as an integral structural and regulatory component of the cilium and provide insight into the pathological mechanisms of LCA and related ciliopathies. Further, these data illustrate that disruption of particular CEP290 functional domains may lead to particular disease phenotypes and suggest innovative strategies for therapeutic intervention.
Diseases of the nervous system have devastating effects and are widely distributed among the population, being especially prevalent in the elderly. These diseases are often caused by inherited genetic mutations that result in abnormal nervous system development, neurodegeneration, or impaired neuronal function. Other causes of neurological diseases include genetic and epigenetic changes induced by environmental insults, injury, disease-related events or inflammatory processes. Standard medical and surgical practice has not proved effective in curing or treating these diseases, and appropriate pharmaceuticals do not exist or are insufficient to slow disease progression. Gene therapy is emerging as a powerful approach with potential to treat and even cure some of the most common diseases of the nervous system. Gene therapy for neurological diseases has been made possible through progress in understanding the underlying disease mechanisms, particularly those involving sensory neurons, and also by improvement of gene vector design, therapeutic gene selection, and methods of delivery. Progress in the field has renewed our optimism for gene therapy as a treatment modality that can be used by neurologists, ophthalmologists and neurosurgeons. In this Review, we describe the promising gene therapy strategies that have the potential to treat patients with neurological diseases and discuss prospects for future development of gene therapy.
This study was undertaken to investigate the prevalence of sequence variants in LCA5 in patients with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), early-onset retinal dystrophy (EORD), and autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa (arRP); to delineate the ocular phenotypes; and to provide an overview of all published LCA5 variants in an online database. Patients underwent standard ophthalmic evaluations after providing informed consent. In selected patients, optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fundus autofluorescence imaging were possible. DNA samples from 797 unrelated patients with LCA and 211 with the various types of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) were screened by Sanger sequence analysis of all LCA5 exons and intron/exon junctions. Some LCA patients were prescreened by APEX technology or selected based on homozygosity mapping. In silico analyses were performed to assess the pathogenicity of the variants. Segregation analysis was performed where possible. Published and novel LCA5 variants were collected, amended for their correct nomenclature, and listed in a Leiden Open Variation Database (LOVD). Sequence analysis identified 18 new probands with 19 different LCA5 variants. Seventeen of the 19 LCA5 variants were novel. Except for two missense variants and one splice site variant, all variants were protein-truncating mutations. Most patients expressed a severe phenotype, typical of LCA. However, some LCA subjects had better vision and intact inner segment/outer segment (IS/OS) junctions on OCT imaging. In two families with LCA5 variants, the phenotype was more compatible with EORD with affected individuals displaying preserved islands of retinal pigment epithelium. One of the families with a milder phenotype harbored a homozygous splice site mutation; a second family was found to have a combination of a stop mutation and a missense mutation. This is the largest LCA5 study to date. We sequenced 1,008 patients (797 with LCA, 211 with arRP) and identified 18 probands with LCA5 mutations. Mutations in LCA5 are a rare cause of childhood retinal dystrophy accounting for ?2% of disease in this cohort, and the majority of LCA5 mutations are likely null. The LCA5 protein truncating mutations are predominantly associated with LCA. However, in two families with the milder EORD, the LCA5 gene analysis revealed a homozygous splice site mutation in one and a stop mutation in combination with a missense mutation in a second family, suggesting that this milder phenotype is due to residual function of lebercilin and expanding the currently known phenotypic spectrum to include the milder early onset RP. Some patients have remaining foveal cone structures (intact IS/OS junctions on OCT imaging) and remaining visual acuities, which may bode well for upcoming treatment trials.
The aim of this study was to show the clinical data of long-term (3-year) follow-up of 5 patients affected by Leber congenital amaurosis type 2 (LCA2) treated with a single unilateral injection of adeno-associated virus AAV2-hRPE65v2.
Transduction of retinal pigment epithelial cells with an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV) based on serotype 2 has partially corrected retinal blindness in Leber congenital amaurosis type 2. However, many applications of gene therapy for retinal blindness rely on the efficient transduction of rod and cone photoreceptor which is difficult to achieve with first generation vector technology. To address this translational need, we evaluated rod and cone photoreceptor targeting of 4 novel AAV capsids (AAV7, AAV9, rh.64R1 and rh.8R) versus AAV2 and AAV8 in a foveated retina. Eyes of 20 nonhuman primates were injected subretinally in the proximity of the fovea. While numerous vectors efficiently transduced rods, only AAV9 targeted cones both centrally and peripherally efficiently at low doses, likely due to the abundance of galactosylated glycans, the primary receptor for AAV9, on cone photoreceptors. We conclude AAV9 is an ideal candidate for strategies that require restoration of cone photoreceptor function.
The eye has been at the forefront of translational gene therapy largely owing to suitable disease targets, anatomic accessibility, and well-studied immunologic privilege. These advantages have fostered research culminating in several clinical trials and adeno-associated virus (AAV) has emerged as the vector of choice for many ocular therapies. Pre-clinical and clinical investigations have assessed the humoral and cellular immune responses to a variety of naturally occurring and engineered AAV serotypes as well as their delivered transgenes and these data have been correlated to potential clinical sequelae. Encouragingly, AAV appears safe and effective with clinical follow-up surpassing 5?years in some studies. As disease targets continue to expand for AAV in the eye, thorough and deliberate assessment of immunologic safety is critical. With careful study, the development of these technologies should concurrently inform the biology of the ocular immune response.
Choroideremia (CHM) is an X- linked retinal degeneration that is symptomatic in the 1(st) or 2(nd) decade of life causing nyctalopia and loss of peripheral vision. The disease progresses through mid-life, when most patients become blind. CHM is a favorable target for gene augmentation therapy, as the disease is due to loss of function of a protein necessary for retinal cell health, Rab Escort Protein 1 (REP1).The CHM cDNA can be packaged in recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV), which has an established track record in human gene therapy studies, and, in addition, there are sensitive and quantitative assays to document REP1 activity. An animal model that accurately reflects the human condition is not available. In this study, we tested the ability to restore REP1 function in personalized in vitro models of CHM: lymphoblasts and induced pluripotent stems cells (iPSCs) from human patients. The initial step of evaluating safety of the treatment was carried out by evaluating for acute retinal histopathologic effects in normal-sighted mice and no obvious toxicity was identified. Delivery of the CHM cDNA to affected cells restores REP1 enzymatic activity and also restores proper protein trafficking. The gene transfer is efficient and the preliminary safety data are encouraging. These studies pave the way for a human clinical trial of gene therapy for CHM.
Gene therapy involves delivery of exogenous DNA to provide a therapeutic protein. Ideally, a gene therapy vector should be non-toxic, non-immunogenic, easy to produce, and efficient in protecting and delivering DNA into target cells.
Retinal gene therapy holds great promise for the treatment of inherited and noninherited blinding diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. The most widely used vectors for ocular gene delivery are based on adeno-associated virus (AAV) because it mediates long-term transgene expression in a variety of retinal cell types and elicits minimal immune responses. Inherited retinal diseases are nonlethal and have a wide level of genetic heterogeneity. Many of the genes have now been identified and their function elucidated, providing a major step towards the development of gene-based treatments. Extensive preclinical evaluation of gene transfer strategies in small and large animal models is key to the development of successful gene-based therapies for the retina. These preclinical studies have already allowed the field to reach the point where gene therapy to treat inherited blindness has been brought to clinical trial.In this chapter, we focus on AAV-mediated specific gene therapy for inherited retinal degenerative diseases, describing the disease targets, the preclinical studies in animal models and the recent success of the LCA-RPE65 clinical trials.
Gene therapy is emerging as a therapeutic modality for treating disorders of the retina. Photoreceptor cells are the primary cell type affected in many inherited diseases of retinal degeneration. Successfully treating these diseases with gene therapy requires the identification of efficient and safe targeting vectors that can transduce photoreceptor cells. One serotype of adeno-associated virus, AAV2, has been used successfully in clinical trials to treat a form of congenital blindness that requires transduction of the supporting cells of the retina in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Here, we determined the dose required to achieve targeting of AAV2 and AAV8 vectors to photoreceptors in nonhuman primates. Transgene expression in animals injected subretinally with various doses of AAV2 or AAV8 vectors carrying a green fluorescent protein transgene was correlated with surgical, clinical, and immunological observations. Both AAV2 and AAV8 demonstrated efficient transduction of RPE, but AAV8 was markedly better at targeting photoreceptor cells. These preclinical results provide guidance for optimal vector and dose selection in future human gene therapy trials to treat retinal diseases caused by loss of photoreceptors.
The mutations that cause Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) lead to photoreceptor cell death at an early age, causing childhood blindness. To unravel the molecular basis of LCA, we analyzed how mutations in LCA5 affect the connectivity of the encoded protein lebercilin at the interactome level. In photoreceptors, lebercilin is uniquely localized at the cilium that bridges the inner and outer segments. Using a generally applicable affinity proteomics approach, we showed that lebercilin specifically interacted with the intraflagellar transport (IFT) machinery in HEK293T cells. This interaction disappeared when 2 human LCA-associated lebercilin mutations were introduced, implicating a specific disruption of IFT-dependent protein transport, an evolutionarily conserved basic mechanism found in all cilia. Lca5 inactivation in mice led to partial displacement of opsins and light-induced translocation of arrestin from photoreceptor outer segments. This was consistent with a defect in IFT at the connecting cilium, leading to failure of proper outer segment formation and subsequent photoreceptor degeneration. These data suggest that lebercilin functions as an integral element of selective protein transport through photoreceptor cilia and provide a molecular demonstration that disrupted IFT can lead to LCA.
Gene therapy studies in primates can provide important information regarding vector tropism, specific cellular expression, biodistribution, and safety prior to clinical trials. In this study, we report the assessment of transduction efficiency of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors using human postmortem retina. Transductions were performed using two in vitro models prepared from human tissue: dissociated cell cultures and retinal explants. These models were used to assess cellular tropism and selectivity of rAAV vectors encoding for fluorescent proteins under the control of different promoters. These promoters were a ubiquitous cytomegalovirus promoter and a cell type-specific promoter targeting expression in ON bipolar cells. The results demonstrate that this in vitro approach can limit the use of living primates for the validation of gene therapy in vision and ophthalmology.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a rare degenerative eye disease, linked to mutations in at least 14 genes. A recent gene therapy trial in patients with LCA2, who have mutations in RPE65, demonstrated that subretinal injection of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) carrying the normal cDNA of that gene (AAV2-hRPE65v2) could markedly improve vision. However, it remains unclear how the visual cortex responds to recovery of retinal function after prolonged sensory deprivation. Here, 3 of the gene therapy trial subjects, treated at ages 8, 9, and 35 years, underwent functional MRI within 2 years of unilateral injection of AAV2-hRPE65v2. All subjects showed increased cortical activation in response to high- and medium-contrast stimuli after exposure to the treated compared with the untreated eye. Furthermore, we observed a correlation between the visual field maps and the distribution of cortical activations for the treated eyes. These data suggest that despite severe and long-term visual impairment, treated LCA2 patients have intact and responsive visual pathways. In addition, these data suggest that gene therapy resulted in not only sustained and improved visual ability, but also enhanced contrast sensitivity.
For dominantly inherited disorders development of gene therapies, targeting the primary genetic lesion has been impeded by mutational heterogeneity. An example is rhodopsin-linked autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa with over 150 mutations in the rhodopsin gene. Validation of a mutation-independent suppression and replacement gene therapy for this disorder has been undertaken. The therapy provides a means of correcting the genetic defect in a mutation-independent manner thereby circumventing the mutational diversity. Separate adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors were used to deliver an RNA interference (RNAi)-based rhodopsin suppressor and a codon-modified rhodopsin replacement gene resistant to suppression due to nucleotide alterations at degenerate positions over the RNAi target site. Viruses were subretinally coinjected into P347S mice, a model of dominant rhodopsin-linked retinitis pigmentosa. Benefit in retinal function and structure detected by electroretinography (ERG) and histology, respectively, was observed for at least 5 months. Notably, the photoreceptor cell layer, absent in 5-month-old untreated retinas, contained 3-4 layers of nuclei, whereas photoreceptor ultrastructure, assessed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) improved significantly. The study provides compelling evidence that codelivered suppression and replacement is beneficial, representing a significant step toward the clinic. Additionally, dual-vector delivery of combined therapeutics represents an exciting approach, which is potentially applicable to other inherited disorders.
Nonsyndromic recessive retinal dystrophies cause severe visual impairment due to the death of photoreceptor and retinal pigment epithelium cells. These diseases until recently have been considered to be incurable. Molecular genetic studies in the last two decades have revealed the underlying molecular causes in approximately two-thirds of patients. The mammalian eye has been at the forefront of therapeutic trials based on gene augmentation in humans with an early-onset nonsyndromic recessive retinal dystrophy due to mutations in the retinal pigment epithelium-specific protein 65kDa (RPE65) gene. Tremendous challenges still lie ahead to extrapolate these studies to other retinal disease-causing genes, as human gene augmentation studies require testing in animal models for each individual gene and sufficiently large patient cohorts for clinical trials remain to be identified through cost-effective mutation screening protocols.
Lebers congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a group of severe inherited retinal degenerations that are symptomatic in infancy and lead to total blindness in adulthood. Recent clinical trials using recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (rAAV2) successfully reversed blindness in patients with LCA caused by RPE65 mutations after one subretinal injection. However, it was unclear whether treatment of the second eye in the same manner would be safe and efficacious, given the potential for a complicating immune response after the first injection. Here, we evaluated the immunological and functional consequences of readministration of rAAV2-hRPE65v2 to the contralateral eye using large animal models. Neither RPE65-mutant (affected; RPE65(-/-)) nor unaffected animals developed antibodies against the transgene product, but all developed neutralizing antibodies against the AAV2 capsid in sera and intraocular fluid after subretinal injection. Cell-mediated immune responses were benign, with only 1 of 10 animals in the study developing a persistent T cell immune response to AAV2, a response that was mediated by CD4(+) T cells. Sequential bilateral injection caused minimal inflammation and improved visual function in affected animals. Thus, subretinal readministration of rAAV2 in animals is safe and effective, even in the setting of preexisting immunity to the vector, a parameter that has been used to exclude patients from gene therapy trials.
The safety and efficacy of gene therapy for inherited retinal diseases is being tested in humans affected with Lebers congenital amaurosis (LCA), an autosomal recessive blinding disease. Three independent studies have provided evidence that the subretinal administration of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors encoding RPE65 in patients affected with LCA2 due to mutations in the RPE65 gene, is safe and, in some cases, results in efficacy. We evaluated the long-term safety and efficacy (global effects on retinal/visual function) resulting from subretinal administration of AAV2-hRPE65v2. Both the safety and the efficacy noted at early timepoints persist through at least 1.5 years after injection in the three LCA2 patients enrolled in the low dose cohort of our trial. A transient rise in neutralizing antibodies to AAV capsid was observed but there was no humoral response to RPE65 protein. The persistence of functional amelioration suggests that AAV-mediated gene transfer to the human retina does not elicit immunological responses which cause significant loss of transduced cells. The persistence of physiologic effect supports the possibility that gene therapy may influence LCA2 disease progression. The safety of the intervention and the stability of the improvement in visual and retinal function in these subjects support the use of AAV-mediated gene augmentation therapy for treatment of inherited retinal diseases.
Gene therapy has the potential to reverse disease or prevent further deterioration of vision in patients with incurable inherited retinal degeneration. We therefore did a phase 1 trial to assess the effect of gene therapy on retinal and visual function in children and adults with Lebers congenital amaurosis.
To use ocular motility recordings to determine the changes over time of infantile nystagmus syndrome (INS) in RPE65-deficient canines with Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and assess the time course of the recalibration of the ocular motor system (OMS).
PlexinD1 is a membrane-bound receptor that mediates signals derived from class 3 secreted semaphorins. Although semaphorin signaling in axon guidance in the nervous system has been extensively studied, functions outside the nervous system including important roles in vascular patterning have also been demonstrated. Inactivation of plexinD1 leads to neo-natal lethality, structural defects of the cardiac outflow tract, peripheral vascular abnormalities, and axial skeletal morphogenesis defects. PlexinD1 is expressed by vascular endothelial cells, but additional domains of expression have also been demonstrated including in lymphocytes, osteoblasts, neural crest and the central nervous system. Hence, the cell-type specific functions of plexinD1 have remained unclear. Here, we describe the results of tissue-specific gene inactivation of plexinD1 in Tie2 expressing precursors, which recapitulates the null phenotype with respect to congenital heart, vascular, and skeletal abnormalities resulting in neonatal lethality. Interestingly, these mutants also have myocardial defects not previously reported. In addition, we demonstrate functions for plexinD1 in post-natal retinal vasculogenesis and adult angiogenesis through the use of inducible cre-mediated deletion. These results demonstrate an important role for PlexinD1 in embryonic and adult vasculature.
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is the most severe form of inherited retinal degeneration, with an onset in the first year of life. The most frequent mutation that causes LCA, present in at least 10% of individuals with LCA from North-American and Northern-European descent, is an intronic mutation in CEP290 that results in the inclusion of an aberrant exon in the CEP290 mRNA. Here, we describe a genetic therapy approach that is based on antisense oligonucleotides (AONs), small RNA molecules that are able to redirect normal splicing of aberrantly processed pre-mRNA. Immortalized lymphoblastoid cells of individuals with LCA homozygously carrying the intronic CEP290 mutation were transfected with several AONs that target the aberrant exon that is incorporated in the mutant CEP290 mRNA. Subsequent RNA isolation and reverse transcription-PCR analysis revealed that a number of AONs were capable of almost fully redirecting normal CEP290 splicing, in a dose-dependent manner. Other AONs however, displayed no effect on CEP290 splicing at all, indicating that the rescue of aberrant CEP290 splicing shows a high degree of sequence specificity. Together, our data show that AON-based therapy is a promising therapeutic approach for CEP290-associated LCA that warrants future research in animal models to develop a cure for this blinding disease.
To determine the proportion of male patients presenting simplex retinal degenerative disease (RD: retinitis pigmentosa [RP] or cone/cone-rod dystrophy [COD/CORD]) with mutations in the X-linked retinal degeneration genes RPGR and RP2.
In this issue of Neuron, Polosukhina et al. (2012) intravitreally deliver the light-activatable molecule acrylamide-azobenzene-quaternary ammonium (AAQ) to the eyes of mice with end-stage retinal degeneration. Results show that, with the appropriate illumination, AAQ restores light sensitivity and visual behavior.
Objective techniques to assess the amelioration of vision in patients with impaired visual function are needed to standardize efficacy assessment in gene therapy trials for ocular diseases. Pupillometry has been investigated in several diseases in order to provide objective information about the visual reflex pathway and has been adopted to quantify visual impairment in patients with Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). In this paper, we describe detailed methods of pupillometric analysis and a case study on three Italian patients affected by Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) involved in a gene therapy clinical trial at two follow-up time-points: 1 year and 3 years after therapy administration.
With the recent progress in identifying disease-causing genes in humans and in animal models, there are more and more opportunities for using retinal gene transfer to learn more about retinal physiology and also to develop therapies for blinding disorders. Success in preclinical studies for one form of inherited blindness have led to testing in human clinical trials. This paves the way to consider a number of other retinal diseases as ultimate gene therapy targets in human studies. The information presented here is designed to assist scientists and clinicians to use gene transfer to probe the biology of the retina and/or to move appropriate gene-based treatment studies from the bench to the clinic.
The rod-derived cone viability factors, RdCVF and RdCVF2, have potential therapeutical interests for the treatment of inherited photoreceptor degenerations. In the mouse lacking Nxnl2, the gene encoding RdCVF2, the progressive decline of the visual performance of the cones in parallel with their degeneration, arises due to the loss of trophic support from RdCVF2. In contrary, the progressive loss of rod visual function of the Nxnl2-/- mouse results from a decrease in outer segment length, mediated by a cell autonomous mechanism involving the putative thioredoxin protein RdCVF2L, the second spliced product of the Nxnl2 gene. This novel signaling mechanism extends to olfaction as shown by the progressive impairment of olfaction in aged Nxnl2-/- mice and the protection of olfactory neurons by RdCVF2. This study shows that Nxnl2 is a bi-functional gene involved in the maintenance of both the function and the viability of sensory neurons.
Demonstration of safe and stable reversal of blindness after a single unilateral subretinal injection of a recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) carrying the RPE65 gene (AAV2-hRPE65v2) prompted us to determine whether it was possible to obtain additional benefit through a second administration of the AAV vector to the contralateral eye. Readministration of vector to the second eye was carried out in three adults with Leber congenital amaurosis due to mutations in the RPE65 gene 1.7 to 3.3 years after they had received their initial subretinal injection of AAV2-hRPE65v2. Results (through 6 months) including evaluations of immune response, retinal and visual function testing, and functional magnetic resonance imaging indicate that readministration is both safe and efficacious after previous exposure to AAV2-hRPE65v2.
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