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Gene Ther. 2004 Oct;11 Suppl 1:S26-32.

Recombinant AAV-mediated gene transfer to the retina: gene therapy perspectives.

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Laboratoire de Thérapie Génique, INSERM U649, CHU-Hotel DIEU, Nantes Cedex, France.


Retinal degenerative diseases such as retinal macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa constitute a broad group of diseases that all share one critical feature, the progressive apoptotic loss of cells in the retina. There is currently no effective treatment available by which the course of these disorders can be modified, and visual dysfunction often progresses to total blindness. Gene therapy represents an attractive approach to treating retinal degeneration because the eye is easily accessible and allows local application of therapeutic vectors with reduced risk of systemic effects. Furthermore, transgene expression within the retina and effects of treatments may be monitored by a variety of noninvasive examinations. An increasing number of strategies for molecular treatment of retinal disease rely on recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) as a therapeutic gene delivery vector. Before rAAV-mediated gene therapy for retinal degeneration becomes a reality, there are a number of important requirements that include: (1) evaluation of different rAAV serotypes, (2) screening of vectors in large animals in order to ensure that they mediate safe and long-term gene expression, (3) appropriate regulation of therapeutic gene expression, (4) evaluation of vectors carrying a therapeutic gene in relevant animal models, (5) identification of suitable patients, and finally (6) manufacture of clinical grade vector. All these steps towards gene therapy are still being explored. Outcomes of these studies will be discussed in the order in which they occur, from vector studies to preclinical assessment of the therapeutic potential of rAAV in animal models of retinal degeneration.

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