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Sergei Nikonov, Puya Aravand, Arkady Lyubarsky, Roman Nikonov, Angela J. Luo, Zhangyong Wei, Albert M. Maguire, Nicholas T. Phelps, Ivan Shpylchak, Keirnan Willett, Tomas S. Aleman, Rachel M. Huckfeldt, Pavitra S. Ramachandran, Jean Bennett; Restoration of Vision and Retinal Responses After Adeno-Associated Virus–Mediated Optogenetic Therapy in Blind Dogs. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2022;11(5):24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.11.5.24.
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Optogenetic gene therapy to render remaining retinal cells light-sensitive in end-stage retinal degeneration is a promising strategy for treatment of individuals blind because of a variety of different inherited retinal degenerations. The clinical trials currently in progress focus on delivery of optogenetic genes to ganglion cells. Delivery of optogenetic molecules to cells in the outer neural retina is predicted to be even more advantageous because it harnesses more of the retinal circuitry. However, this approach has not yet been tested in large animal models. For this reason, we evaluated the safety and efficacy of optogenetic therapy targeting remaining diseased cone photoreceptors in the Rcd1 dog model of retinitis pigmentosa.
Imaging and measures of retinal function and functional vision were carried out, as well as terminal studies evaluating multi-electrode array recordings and histology.
Animals remained healthy and active throughout the study and showed improved retinal and visual function as assessed by electroretinography and visual-evoked potentials, improved navigational vision, and improved function of cone photoreceptors and the downstream retinal circuitry.
The findings demonstrate that an optogenetic approach targeting the outer retina in a blind large animal model can partially restore vision.
This work has translational relevance because the approach could potentially be extrapolated to treat humans who are totally blind because of retinal degenerative disease.
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