Clinical applications of retinal gene therapy.
Lipinski DM., Thake M., MacLaren RE.
Many currently incurable forms of blindness affecting the retina have a genetic etiology and several others, such as those resulting from retinal vascular disturbances, respond to repeated, potentially indefinite administration of molecular based treatments. The recent clinical advances in retinal gene therapy have shown that viral vectors can deliver genes safely to the retina and the promising initial results from a number of clinical trials suggest that certain diseases may potentially be treatable. Gene therapy provides a means of expressing proteins within directly transduced cells with far greater efficacy than might be achieved by traditional systemic pharmacological approaches. Recent developments have demonstrated how vector gene expression may be regulated and further improvements to vector design have limited side effects and improved safety profiles. These recent steps have been most significant in bringing gene therapy into the mainstream of ophthalmology. Nevertheless translating retinal gene therapy from animal research into clinical trials is still a lengthy process, including complexities in human retinal diseases that have been difficult to model in the laboratory. The focus of this review is to summarize the genetic background of the most common retinal diseases, highlight current concepts of gene delivery technology, and relate those technologies to pre-clinical and clinical gene therapy studies.