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Clin Experiment Ophthalmol. 2007 Jul;35(5):473-85.

Genetic testing for retinal dystrophies and dysfunctions: benefits, dilemmas and solutions.

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  • 1McGill Ocular Genetics Center, McGill University Health Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. robert.koenekoop@muhc.mcgill.ca


Human retinal dystrophies have unparalleled genetic and clinical diversity and are currently linked to more than 185 genetic loci. Genotyping is a crucial exercise, as human gene-specific clinical trials to study photoreceptor rescue are on their way. Testing confirms the diagnosis at the molecular level and allows for a more precise prognosis of the possible future clinical evolution. As treatments are gene-specific and the 'window of opportunity' is time-sensitive; accurate, rapid and cost-effective genetic testing will play an ever-increasing crucial role. The gold standard is sequencing but is fraught with excessive costs, time, manpower issues and finding non-pathogenic variants. Therefore, no centre offers testing of all currently 132 known genes. Several new micro-array technologies have emerged recently, that offer rapid, cost-effective and accurate genotyping. The new disease chips from Asper Ophthalmics (for Stargardt dystrophy, Leber congenital amaurosis [LCA], Usher syndromes and retinitis pigmentosa) offer an excellent first pass opportunity. All known mutations are placed on the chip and in 4 h a patient's DNA is screened. Identification rates (identifying at least one disease-associated mutation) are currently approximately 70% (Stargardt), approximately 60-70% (LCA) and approximately 45% (Usher syndrome subtype 1). This may be combined with genotype-phenotype correlations that suggest the causal gene from the clinical appearance (e.g. preserved para-arteriolar retinal pigment epithelium suggests the involvement of the CRB1 gene in LCA). As approximately 50% of the retinal dystrophy genes still await discovery, these technologies will improve dramatically as additional novel mutations are added. Genetic testing will then become standard practice to complement the ophthalmic evaluation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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