Bascom Palmer Eye Institute announces breakthrough for degenerative vision disorderApril 24, 2012
"A wide range of other factors, including aging, cancer, and Parkinson's disease, are also caused by mutations in the mitochondria," said Dr. Guy. "This new approach shows the vast potential for genetic-therapy applications, while helping to address a significant cause of blindness."
The healthy genes were delivered into the mitochondria via an innovative viral delivery system. Specifically, Guy redirected the adeno-associated virus (a small virus that infects humans but is not known to cause disease) to the mitochondria rather than to its typical target, the nucleus, where most genes are housed within the cell. He did so via a mitochondrial-targeting sequence (a peptide chain that directs the transport of a protein). This permitted the replacement of the defective mitochondrial gene with a healthy one, which then restored energy production to the affected ocular cells. Two National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute grants, totaling $6.1 million funded this research, which began in 2007.
"Other research studies have shown that LHON patients who have lost their vision still have some sensitivity to light," said Guy. "This indicated that if you can restore the functioning of those cells through gene therapy, those patients could see again." In conjunction with his research, Guy explored why only about 50 percent of patients with the genetic mutation develop LHON, while others do not.
Known for exploring gene therapy as a potential treatment for diseases of the optic nerve, Guy holds several patents related to mitochondrial gene therapy biotechnology. His next steps will be to investigate incorporating all three genes that cause LHON into a single viral carrier and hopefully receive FDA approval to inject therapeutic genes into patients who have visual loss from mitochondrial disease.
On April 20, 2012, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) - one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials - published an article by Guy about this recent breakthrough. Click here to read the article.
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
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