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PLoS One. 2011 Apr 12;6(4):e18771. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018771.

Efficacious and safe tissue-selective controlled gene therapy approaches for the cornea.

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Harry S. Truman Veterans Memorial Hospital, Columbia, Missouri, United States of America.


Untargeted and uncontrolled gene delivery is a major cause of gene therapy failure. This study aimed to define efficient and safe tissue-selective targeted gene therapy approaches for delivering genes into keratocytes of the cornea in vivo using a normal or diseased rabbit model. New Zealand White rabbits, adeno-associated virus serotype 5 (AAV5), and a minimally invasive hair-dryer based vector-delivery technique were used. Fifty microliters of AAV5 titer (6.5×10(12) vg/ml) expressing green fluorescent protein gene (GFP) was topically applied onto normal or diseased (fibrotic or neovascularized) rabbit corneas for 2-minutes with a custom vector-delivery technique. Corneal fibrosis and neovascularization in rabbit eyes were induced with photorefractive keratectomy using excimer laser and VEGF (630 ng) using micropocket assay, respectively. Slit-lamp biomicroscopy and immunocytochemistry were used to confirm fibrosis and neovascularization in rabbit corneas. The levels, location and duration of delivered-GFP gene expression in the rabbit stroma were measured with immunocytochemistry and/or western blotting. Slot-blot measured delivered-GFP gene copy number. Confocal microscopy performed in whole-mounts of cornea and thick corneal sections determined geometric and spatial localization of delivered-GFP in three-dimensional arrangement. AAV5 toxicity and safety were evaluated with clinical eye exam, stereomicroscopy, slit-lamp biomicroscopy, and H&E staining. A single 2-minute AAV5 topical application via custom delivery-technique efficiently and selectively transduced keratocytes in the anterior stroma of normal and diseased rabbit corneas as evident from immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy. Transgene expression was first detected at day 3, peaked at day 7, and was maintained up to 16 weeks (longest tested time point). Clinical and slit-lamp eye examination in live rabbits and H&E staining did not reveal any significant changes between AAV5-treated and untreated control corneas. These findings suggest that defined gene therapy approaches are safe for delivering genes into keratocytes in vivo and has potential for treating corneal disorders in human patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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