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    Tapping gene therapy potential for inherited retinal diseases

    Deployment of technology at lower cost, higher throughput would benefit more patients

    Though gene therapy technology already exists to treat most inherited retinal disease, the current challenge is to drive down the costs of implementing the technology—thus availing more patients with the benefits of treatments and possibly prevent inevitable visual deterioration.

    Edwin M. Stone, MD, PhD, recounted the case of a 14-year-old boy with an inherited eye disease who was born deaf and received bilateral cochlear implants during the first years of his life. The boy’s visual acuity levels were 20/25 and 20/32 in the right and left eyes, respectively. Despite good visual acuity, more recently, he had been having difficulty seeing in dim light.

    A Goldmann perimetry evaluation showed normal responses to large, bright stimuli. However, there was some restriction at the 12e and 14e isopters, explained Dr. Stone, director, Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research, and professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City.

    A fundus examination showed that both discs were normal and the vessels were slightly constricted. Some pigmentation was present in the midperipheral retina.

    Based on these findings, deafness at birth, and retinitis pigmentosa at the beginning of the second decade of life, the patient was given a diagnosis of type I Usher syndrome. Molecular testing showed the presence of the two most common mutations in the USH1C gene, i.e., Val72Val (a splice variant) and Thr78insC.

    Treatment and management


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