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Francesco Testa, Enrico Maria Surace, Settimio Rossi, Elena Marrocco, Annagiusi Gargiulo, Valentina Di Iorio, Carmela Ziviello, Anna Nesti, Simona Fecarotta, Maria Laura Bacci, Massimo Giunti, Michele della Corte, Sandro Banfi, Alberto Auricchio, Francesca Simonelli; Evaluation of Italian Patients with Leber Congenital Amaurosis due to AIPL1 Mutations Highlights the Potential Applicability of Gene Therapy. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2011;52(8):5618-5624. doi: 10.1167/iovs.10-6543.
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To evaluate the suitability of gene delivery-based approaches as potential treatment of Leber congenital amaurosis 4 (LCA4) due to AIPL1 mutations.
Genomic DNA from patients was analyzed using a microarray chip and direct sequencing. A detailed clinical evaluation including fundus autofluorescence (FAF) and optical coherence tomography (OCT) was performed in patients with AIPL1 mutations. Aipl1 null mice and porcine eyes were subretinally injected with adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors harboring the human AIPL1 coding sequence.
We identified 10 LCA4 patients with mutations in AIPL1. The p.W278X sequence variation was the one most frequently found. Clinical assessment revealed common features including diffuse retinal dystrophies and maculopathy. However, optical coherence tomography showed partially retained photoreceptors in extramacular regions at all ages. The fundus autofluorescence was elicitable at the posterior pole and absent in the fovea. AAV-mediated gene transfer in Aipl1 −/− mice was associated with restoration of AIPL1 and βPDE expression in photoreceptors and protection from degeneration. Administration of a clinically relevant dose of AAV2/8-AIPL1 to the preclinical large porcine retina resulted in high level of AIPL1 photoreceptor expression in the absence of toxicity.
Using advanced imaging diagnostics we showed that maculopathy is a main feature of LCA4. We identified retinal areas at the posterior pole with surviving photoreceptors present even in adult LCA4 patients, which could be the target of gene therapy. The possible use of gene therapy for LCA4 is additionally supported by the protection from photoreceptor degeneration observed in Aipl 1−/− mice and by the high levels of photoreceptor transduction in the absence of toxicity observed after AAV2/8 delivery to the large porcine retina.
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