New CRISPR Tools to Correct Pathogenic Mutations in Usher Syndrome.
Major L., McClements ME., MacLaren RE.
Inherited retinal degenerations are a leading cause of blindness in the UK. Significant advances have been made to tackle this issue in recent years, with a pioneering FDA approved gene therapy treatment (Luxturna®), which targets a loss of function mutation in the RPE65 gene. However, there remain notable shortcomings to this form of gene replacement therapy. In particular, the lack of viability for gene sequences exceeding the 4.7 kb adeno-associated virus (AAV) packaging limit or for toxic gain of function mutations. The USH2A gene at ~15.7 kb for instance is too large for AAV delivery: a safe and effective vehicle capable of transducing photoreceptor cells for gene replacement therapy. Usher Syndrome is a clinically and genetically heterogenous deaf-blindness syndrome with autosomal recessive inheritance. The USH2A gene encodes the protein usherin, which localises to the photoreceptor cilium and cochlear hair cells. Mutations in the USH2A gene cause Usher Syndrome type II (USH2), which is the most common subtype of Usher Syndrome and the focus of this review. To date, researchers have been unable to create an efficient, safe editing tool that is small enough to fit inside a single AAV vector for delivery into human cells. This article reviews the potential of CRISPR technology, derived from bacterial defence mechanisms, to overcome these challenges; delivering tools to precisely edit and correct small insertions, deletions and base transitions in USH2A without the need to deliver the full-length gene. Such an ultra-compact therapy could make strides in combating a significant cause of blindness in young people.