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Hum Gene Ther. 2012 Aug;23(8):796-807. doi: 10.1089/hum.2012.123.

Gene therapy of inherited retinopathies: a long and successful road from viral vectors to patients.

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Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine, 80131 Naples, Italy.


Inherited retinopathies (IRs) are common and untreatable blinding conditions inherited mostly as monogenic due to mutations in genes expressed in retinal photoreceptors (PRs) and in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Over the last two decades, the retina has emerged as one of the most favorable target tissues for gene therapy given its small size and its enclosed and immune-privileged environment. Different types of viral vectors have been developed, especially those based on the adeno-associated virus (AAV), which efficiently deliver therapeutic genes to PRs or RPE upon subretinal injections. Dozens of successful proofs of concept of the efficacy of gene therapy for recessive and dominant IRs have been generated in small and large models that have paved the way to the first clinical trials using AAV in patients with Leber congenital amaurosis, a severe form of childhood blindness. The results from these initial trials suggest that retinal gene therapy with AAV is safe in humans, that vision can be improved in patients that have suffered from severe impairment of visual function, in some cases for decades, and that readministration of AAV to the subretinal space is feasible, effective, and safe. However, none of the trials could match the levels of efficacy of gene therapy observed in a dog model of the disease, suggesting that there is room for improvement. In conclusion, these results bode well for further testing of AAV-mediated retinal gene therapy in patients with other monogenic and complex forms of blindness.

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