Adeno-Associated Virus-Vectored Gene Therapy for Retinal Disease
Recombinant adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors have become powerful gene delivery tools for the treatment of retinal degeneration in a variety of animal models that mimic corresponding human diseases. AAV vectors possess a number of features that render them ideally suited for retinal gene therapy, including a lack of pathogenicity, minimal immunogenicity, and the ability to transduce postmitotic cells in a stable and efficient manner. In the sheltered environment of the retina, AAV vectors are able to maintain high levels of transgene expression in the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), photoreceptors, or ganglion cells for long periods of time after a single treatment. Each cell type can be specifically targeted by choosing the appropriate combination of AAV serotype, promoter, and intraocular injection site. The focus of this review is on examples of AAV-mediated gene therapy in those animal models of inherited retinal degeneration caused by mutations directly affecting the interacting unit formed by photoreceptors and the RPE. In each case discussed, expression of the therapeutic gene resulted in significant recovery of retinal structure and/or visual function. Because of the key role of the vasculature in maintaining a healthy retina, a summary of AAV gene therapy applications in animal models of retinal neovascular diseases is also included.