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Gene Therapy News

Scientists at the Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School have spent several years refining a technique to repair one of the common genetic disorders that cause deafness, offering hope to millions. The genetic disorder they repaired is Usher syndrome.

Jie Zhu, Chang Ming, Xin Fu, Yaou Duan, Duc Anh Hoang, Jeffrey Rutgard, Runze Zhang, Wenqiu Wang, Rui Hou, Daniel Zhang, Edward Zhang, Charlotte Zhang, Xiaoke Hao, Wenjun Xiong, Kang Zhang.

Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9, researchers have reprogrammed mutated rod photoreceptors to become functioning cone photoreceptors, reversing cellular degeneration and restoring visual function in two mouse models of retinitis pigmentosa.

For more information on this study: https://www.nature.com/cr/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/cr201757a.html

Researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showed that gene therapy was able to restore balance and hearing in genetically modified mice that mimic Usher Syndrome.

Kevin Isgrig, Jack W. Shteamer, Inna A. Belyantseva, Meghan C. Drummond, Tracy S. Fitzgerald, Sarath Vijayakumar, Sherri M. Jones, Andrew J. Griffith, Thomas B. Friedman, Lisa L. Cunningham, Wade W. Chien

For more information on this study: http://www.cell.com/molecular-therapy-family/molecular-therapy/fulltext/S1525-0016(17)30013-8

Allergan and Editas Medicine have made an alliance to work with the gene-editing CRISPR to help prevent vision deterioration.

In this study, researchers introduced CRISPR into retinal cells, tested this genome tool to remove the Nrl gene in mice and three different mouse models of retinal degeneration. By measuring gene expression and examining the retinal cells, the researchers confirmed that rods became more cone-like, as predicted which allowed for rod degeneration to be prevented or slowed.

Yu W, Mookherjee S, Chaitankar V, Hiriyanna S, Kim JW, Brooks M, Ataeijiannati Y, Sun X, Dong L, Li T, Swaroop A, Wu Z

For more information on this study: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14716

Lukas D Landegger, Bifeng Pan, Charles Askew, Sarah J Wassmer, Sarah D Gluck, Alice Galvin, Ruth Taylor, Andrew Forge, Konstantina M Stankovic, Jeffrey R Holt & Luk H Vandenberghe.

Two back-to-back papers in Nature Biotechnology describe how a team at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School developed a new vector for gene delivery and restored hearing and balance in a mouse model with the Ush1c mutation.

Bifeng Pan, Charles Askew, Alice Galvin, Selena Heman-Ackah, Yukako Asai, Artur A Indzhykulian, Francine M Jodelka, Michelle L Hastings, Jennifer J Lentz, Luk H Vandenberghe, Jeffrey R Holt& Gwenaëlle S Géléoc.

Working with a mouse model of a human mutation, Dr. Gwen Géléoc and colleagues delivered a normal copy of the USH1C gene to the inner ear soon after the mice were born, which led to robust improvements enabling profoundly deaf and dizzy mice to hear sounds at the level of whispers and recover proper balance function.

Researchers have discovered a holy grail of gene editing -- the ability to, for the first time, insert DNA at a target location into the non-dividing cells that make up the majority of adult organs and tissues. The technique, which the team showed was able to partially restore visual responses in blind rodents, will open new avenues for basic research and a variety of treatments, such as for retinal, heart and neurological diseases.

In the next month, scientists from RetroSense Therapeutics will inject a virus deep into the retina of legally blind human volunteers. If this works, it means that optogenetics — a revolutionary neuroscience technique using channelrhodopsin-2 and other light-activated proteins — is feasible in humans as therapy.

Astra Dinculescu , Rachel M. Stupay , Wen-Tao Deng, Frank M. Dyka, Seok-Hong Min, Sanford L. Boye, Vince A. Chiodo, Carolina E. Abrahan, Ping Zhu, Qiuhong Li, Enrica Strettoi, Elena Novelli, Kerstin Nagel-Wolfrum, Uwe Wolfrum, W. Clay Smith, William W. Hauswirth.

The ongoing challenge to develop an animal model mimicking the effects of Usher III (in particular, the loss of vision) makes it impossible for researchers to test therapies in development using conventional means. This study has important implications for designing gene therapy studies in a rational manner, to produce Clarin-1 in the correct cell type and at levels that mimic its natural production.

Massachusetts researchers have made a significant advancement toward a gene therapy treatment that would reverse deafness.

A new study questions whether gene therapy to treat Leber congenital amaurosis type 2 (LCA2) actually saves the rods and cones, the photoreceptor cells that provide vision.

According to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, "Doctors may one day treat some forms of blindness by altering the genetic program of the light-sensing cells of the eye."

Three patients have been treated so far with no serious adverse events after six months. They have been allowed to proceed to delivering a larger dose to the next group of patients.

"Gene therapy 'gave me sight back'" An article from the BBC about the impact of gene therapy on patients with LCA. Similar gene therapies are planned for people with Usher.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Oxford BioMedica's Investigational New Drug (IND) application for the Phase I/IIa clinical development of UshStat to treat Usher syndrome type 1B. Oxford Biometica will enroll 18 patients with Usher type 1b at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon. The study will be lead by Dr. Richard Weleber.

University of California, Berkeley professor of neurobiology, John Flannery, is developing ways to cure genetic diseases of the retina.

Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts have developed a new tool for gene therapy that significantly increases gene delivery to cells in the retina.

Oxford BioMedica, a U.K. partner of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, has received orphan drug designation from the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) for their emerging Usher syndrome gene therapy known as UshStat. The company is planning to launch a clinical trial for UshStat in 2011. The EMEA is the European Union’s regulatory agency for medicinal products. It functions similarly to the FDA in the U.S.

EU-funded scientists have succeeded in awakening dormant vision cones, an achievement that may lead to saving millions of people from going blind. The dormant cones, which normally remain in the eye even after blindness has occurred, were successfully reactivated by an international team of scientists led by the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland and the Institut de la vision in France.

Gene delivery to mitotic and postmitotic photoreceptors via compacted DNA nanoparticles results in improved phenotype in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa.

Unrelated to Usher syndrome, but the successful treatment of two children with ALD, a rare genetic disease, could impact gene therapy as an RP treatment. From NPR: "This marks a high point for the field of gene therapy."

A 9-year-old boy who received gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is interviewed on CBS Morning News with his parents and Dr. Stephen Rose of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. The segment includes a before and after video of him navigating a maze.

Pennsylvania researchers using gene therapy have made significant improvements in vision in 12 patients with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). The findings may offer hope for those with macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

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