The Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology

  • July/August 2016 - Volume 5 - Issue 4
    pp: 225-316
    Special Issue on Eye Genetics and Gene Therapy
    Guest Editors:
    Eye Genetics: David Mackey, Calvin Chi-Pui Pang, Kang Zhang
    Gene Therapy: Jeffrey Boatright, Terete Borras, Ian Constable


Ocular Gene Therapy—The Future Is Now Huang, Suber S.; High, Katherine; Toso, Raffaella
Ocular Gene Therapy—The Future Is Now
Molecular Genomics of Eye Diseases Pang, Chi Pui
Molecular Genomics of Eye Diseases

Review Article

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Genetics and Biology Kumaramanickavel, Govindasamy
Abstract: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), widely prevalent across the globe, is a major stakeholder among adult visual morbidity and blindness, not only in the Western world but also in Asia. Several risk factors have been identified, including critical genetic factors, which were never imagined 2 decades ago. The etiopathogenesis is emerging to demonstrate that immune and complement-related inflammation pathway members chronically exposed to environmental insults could justifiably influence disease morbidity and treatment outcomes. Approximately half a dozen physiological and biochemical cascades are disrupted in the AMD disease genesis, eventually leading to the distortion and disruption of the subretinal space, subretinal pigment epithelium, and Bruch membrane, thus setting off chaos and disorder for signs and symptoms to manifest. Approximately 3 dozen genetic factors have so far been identified, including the recent ones, through powerful genomic technologies and large robust sample sizes. The noteworthy genetic variants (common and rare) are complement factor H, complement factor H–related genes 1 to 5, C3, C9, ARMS2/HTRA1, vascular endothelial growth factor A, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2/KDR, and rare variants (show causal link) such as TIMP3, fibrillin, COL4A3, MMP19, and MMP9. Despite the enormous amount of scientific information generated over the years, diagnostic genetic or biomarker tests are still not available for clinicians to understand the natural course of the disease and its management in a patient. However, further research in the field should reduce this gap not only by aiding the clinician but also through the possibilities of clinical intervention with complement pathway–related inhibitors entering preclinical and clinical trials in the near future.
Myopia Genetics—The Asia-Pacific Perspective Rong, Shi Song; Chen, Li Jia; Pang, Chi Pui
Abstract: Myopia is a major cause of visual impairment worldwide. In particular, high myopia is associated with serious blinding complications, including retinal detachment, chorioretinal degeneration, and choroidal neovascularization. Myopia is multifactorial in etiology, resulting from the interaction of environmental and genetic risk factors. During the past 2 decades, a large number of gene loci and variants have been identified for myopia. There are more than 20 myopia-associated loci spanning all chromosomes. Earlier findings were obtained mainly from family linkage analyses and candidate gene studies, and more recent results are principally from genome-wide association studies and exome sequencing. Some genetic associations have been successfully validated and replicated in populations of different geographic localities and ethnicities, but some have not. Compared with Whites, Asian populations—in particular Japanese, Korean, and Chinese—have a much higher prevalence of myopia, especially high myopia. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to such ethnic variations. This review attempts to summarize and compare the allelic frequencies of gene variants known to be associated with myopia in different ethnic groups, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
Genetics of Bietti Crystalline Dystrophy Ng, Danny S.C.; Lai, Timothy Y.Y.; Ng, Tsz Kin; Pang, Chi Pui
Abstract: Bietti crystalline dystrophy (BCD) is an inherited retinal degenerative disease characterized by crystalline deposits in the retina, followed by progressive atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), choriocapillaris, and photoreceptors. CYP4V2 has been identified as the causative gene for BCD. The CYP4V2 gene belongs to the cytochrome P450 superfamily and encodes for fatty acid ω-hydroxylase of both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. The CYP4V2 protein is localized most abundantly within the endoplasmic reticulum in the RPE and is postulated to play a role in the physiological lipid recycling system between the RPE and photoreceptors to maintain visual function. Electroretinographic assessments have revealed progressive dysfunction of rod and cone photoreceptors in patients with BCD. Several genotypes have been associated with more severe phenotypes based on clinical and electrophysiological findings. With the advent of multimodal imaging with spectral domain optical coherence tomography, fundus autofluorescence, and adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, more precise delineation of BCD severity and progression is now possible, allowing for the potential future development of targets for gene therapy.
Gene-Based Therapies for Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. Hype or Hope? Mackey, David A.; Kearns, Lisa S.; Hewitt, Alex W.
Abstract: Leber hereditary optic neuropathy has now joined Leber congenital amaurosis in the list of genetic eye diseases undergoing gene therapy clinical trials. Although a dramatic response to treatment would be welcome, a minor improvement in vision is a major challenge in efficacy assessment, given this may occur spontaneously as part of the natural history of minor recovery in some patients. Thus, we must await the outcome of adequately powered clinical trials to know if the treatment is effective, particularly given the likely high cost of such therapeutic interventions in the future. We need global cooperation to ensure that the most suitable patients are enrolled in these trials and that support is provided for participants who need to travel from the Asia-Pacific region to Europe or North America if there are no local arms of these trials.
Glaucoma Genetics: Recent Advances and Future Directions Aung, Tin; Khor, Chiea Chuen
Abstract: Once considered primarily a disease of aging caused by unknown environmental influences, the notion that heritable factors could significantly contribute to the pathogenesis of sporadic glaucoma has rapidly gained traction. In part, this is due to the rapid and definitive identification of genes with strong effects on familial, earlier onset forms of glaucoma. Although the endpoint of glaucoma is irreversible optic nerve damage accompanied by blindness, the initial inciting trigger could differ. To this end, well-powered genome-wide association studies have each been conducted for primary open-angle glaucoma, primary angle-closure glaucoma, along with exfoliation syndrome and glaucoma. Each of these studies has revealed sets of significantly associated genetic loci implicating biological pathways that do not overlap between the forms of glaucoma. Although substantial biological insight has been gained from their identification, much further work remains to definitively link the implicated genetic variants with glaucoma causation. It is also hoped that the genetic findings could point us to potential routes of therapy beyond that of intraocular pressure–lowering medications or surgery.
Genetics of Retinoblastoma Mallipatna, Ashwin; Marino, Meghan; Singh, Arun D.
Abstract: Retinoblastoma is a malignant retinal tumor that affects young children. Mutations in the RB1 gene cause retinoblastoma. Mutations in both RB1 alleles within the precursor retinal cell are essential, with one mutation that may be germline or somatic and the second one that is always somatic. Identification of the RB1 germline status of a patient allows differentiation between sporadic and heritable retinoblastoma variants. Application of this knowledge is crucial for assessing short-term (risk of additional tumors in the same eye and other eye) and long-term (risk of nonocular malignant tumors) prognosis and offering cost-effective surveillance strategies. Genetic testing and genetic counseling are therefore essential components of care for all children diagnosed with retinoblastoma. The American Joint Committee on Cancer has acknowledged the importance of detecting this heritable trait and has introduced the letter “H” to denote a heritable trait of all cancers, starting with retinoblastoma (in publication). In this article, we discuss the clinically relevant aspects of genetic testing and genetic counseling for a child with retinoblastoma.
Retinitis Pigmentosa: Progress and Perspective Zhang, Qingjiong
Abstract: Retinitis pigmentosa is the most common form of hereditary retinal degeneration causing blindness. Great progress has been made in the identification of the causative genes. Gene diagnosis will soon become an affordable routine clinical test because of the wide application of next-generation sequencing. Gene-based therapy provides hope for curing the disease. Investigation into the molecular pathways from mutation to rod cell death may reveal targets for developing new treatment. Related progress with existing systematic review is briefly summarized so that readers may find the relevant references for in-depth reading. Future trends in the study of retinitis pigmentosa are also discussed.
The Genetics and Pathophysiology of IC3D Category 1 Corneal Dystrophies: A Review Oliver, Verity Frances; Vincent, Andrea Louise
Abstract: Corneal dystrophies are a group of inherited disorders affecting the cornea, many of which lead to visual impairment. The International Committee for Classification of Corneal Dystrophies has established criteria to clarify the status of the various corneal dystrophies, which include the knowledge of the underlying genetics. In this review, we discuss the International Committee for Classification of Corneal Dystrophies category 1 (second edition) corneal dystrophies, for which a clear genetic link has been established. We highlight the various mechanisms underlying corneal dystrophy pathology, including structural disorganization, instability or maladhesion, aberrant protein stability and deposition, abnormal cellular proliferation or apoptosis, and dysfunction of normal enzymatic processes. Understanding these genetic mechanisms is essential for designing targets for therapeutic intervention, especially in the age of gene therapy and gene editing.
Strategies for Gene Mapping in Inherited Ophthalmic Diseases Srilekha, Sundar; Rao, Bhavna; Rao, Divya M.; Sudha, D.; Chandrasekar, Sathya Priya; Pandian, A.J.; Soumittra, N.; Sripriya, S.
Abstract: Gene mapping of inherited ophthalmic diseases such as congenital cataracts, retinal degeneration, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, myopia, optic atrophy, and eye malformations has shed more light on the disease pathology, identified targets for research on therapeutics, earlier detection, and treatment options for disease management and patient care. This article details the different approaches to gene identification for both Mendelian and complex eye disorders.
Neurodegenerative Eye Disorders: Role of Mitochondrial Dynamics and Genomics Mohanty, Kuldeep; Dada, Rima; Dada, Tanuj
Abstract: As a major source of cellular energy, mitochondria are critical for optimal ocular function. They are also essential for cell differentiation and survival. Mitochondrial mutations and oxidative damage to the mitochondrial DNA are important factors underlying the pathology of many ocular disorders. With increasing age, mitochondrial DNA damage accumulates and results in several eye diseases. It is evident that the mitochondrial genome is more susceptible to stress and damage than the nuclear genome, as it lacks histone protection, a nucleotide excision repair system, and recombination repair, and it is the source and target of free radicals. Accumulation of mitochondrial mutations beyond a certain threshold explains the marked variations in phenotypes seen in mitochondrial diseases and the molecular mechanisms related to the pathogenesis of several chronic disorders in the eye. This review details the structure and function of mitochondria and the mitochondrial genome along with the mitochondrial involvement in various neurodegenerative ophthalmic disorders.
Gene Therapy for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Constable, Ian Jeffery; Blumenkranz, Mark Scott; Schwartz, Steven D.; Barone, Sam; Lai, Chooi-May; Rakoczy, Elizabeth Piroska
Abstract: The purpose of this article was to evaluate safety and signals of efficacy of gene therapy with subretinal rAAV.sFlt-1 for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD). A phase 1 dose-escalating single-center controlled unmasked human clinical trial was followed up by extension of the protocol to a phase 2A single-center trial. rAAV.sFlt-1 vector was used to deliver a naturally occurring anti–vascular endothelial growth factor agent, sFlt-1, into the subretinal space. In phase 1, step 1 randomized 3 subjects to low-dose rAAV.sFlt-1 (1 × 1010 vector genomes) and 1 subject to the control arm; step 2 randomized an additional 3 subjects to treatment with high-dose rAAV.sFlt-1 (1 × 1011 vector genomes) and 1 subject to the control arm. Follow-up studies demonstrated that rAAV.sFlt-1 was well tolerated with a favorable safety profile in these elderly subjects with wet AMD. Subretinal injection was highly reproducible, and no drug-related adverse events were reported. Procedure-related adverse events were mild and self-resolving. Two phakic patients developed cataract and underwent cataract surgery. Four of the 6 patients responded better than the small control group in this study and historical controls in terms of maintaining vision and a relatively dry retina with zero ranibizumab retreatments per annum. Two patients required 1 ranibizumab injection over the 52-week follow-up period. rAAV.sFlt-1 gene therapy may prove to be a potential adjunct or alternative to conventional intravitreal injection for patients with wet AMD by providing extended delivery of a naturally occurring antiangiogenic protein.
Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats: Challenges in Treating Retinal Disease Chrenek, Micah A.; Nickerson, John M.; Boatright, Jeffrey H.
Abstract: Ophthalmic researchers and clinicians arguably have led the way for safe, effective gene therapy, most notably with adeno-associated viral gene supplementation in the treatment for patients with Leber congenital amaurosis type 2 with mutations in the RPE65 gene. These successes notwithstanding, most other genetic retinal disease will be refractory to supplementation. The ideal gene therapy approach would correct gene mutations to restore normal function in the affected cells. Gene editing in which a mutant allele is inactivated or converted to sequence that restores normal function is hypothetically one such approach. Such editing involves site-specific digestion of mutant genomic DNA followed by repair. Previous experimental approaches were hampered by inaccurate and high rates of off-site lesioning and by overall low digestion rates. A new tool, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats coupled with the nuclease Cas9, may address both shortcomings. Some of the many challenges that must be addressed in moving clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats coupled with the nuclease Cas9 therapies to the ophthalmic clinic are discussed here.
Exercise as Gene Therapy: BDNF and DNA Damage Repair Schmidt, Robin H.; Nickerson, John M.; Boatright, Jeffrey H.
Abstract: DNA damage is a common feature of neurodegenerative illnesses, and the ability to repair DNA strand breaks and lesions is crucial for neuronal survival, reported by Jeppesen et al (Prog Neurobiol. 2011;94:166–200) and Shiwaku et al (Curr Mol Med. 2015;15:119–128). Interventions aimed at repairing these lesions, therefore, could be useful for preventing or delaying the progression of disease. One potential strategy for promoting DNA damage repair (DDR) is exercise. Although the role of exercise in DDR is not understood, there is increasing evidence that simple physical activity may impact clinical outcomes for neurodegeneration. Here, we discuss what is currently known about the molecular mechanisms of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and how these mechanisms might influence the DDR process.
Gene Therapy and Gene Editing for the Corneal Dystrophies Williams, Keryn A.; Irani, Yazad D.
Abstract: Despite ever-increasing understanding of the genetic underpinnings of many corneal dystrophies, gene therapy designed to ameliorate disease has not yet been reported in any human patient. In this review, we explore the likely reasons for this apparent failure of translation. We identify the requirements for success: the genetic defect involved must have been identified and mapped, vision in the affected patient must be significantly impaired or likely to be impaired, no better or equivalently effective treatment must be available, the treatment must be capable of modulating corneal pathology, and delivery of the construct to the appropriate cell must be practicable. We consider which of the corneal dystrophies might be amenable to treatment by genetic manipulations, summarize existing therapeutic options for treatment, and explore gene editing using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat/Cas and other similar transformative technologies as the way of the future. We then summarize recent laboratory-based advances in gene delivery and the development of in vitro and in vivo models of the corneal dystrophies. Finally, we review recent experimental work that has increased our knowledge of the pathobiology of these conditions.
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