Gene Therapy Publications
AAV2-hCHM Subretinal Delivery to the Macula in Choroideremia: Two Year Interim Results of an Ongoing Phase I/II Gene Therapy Trial. Ophthalmology 2022;Abstract.
PURPOSE: To assess the safety of the subretinal delivery of a recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (AAV2) vector carrying a human CHM-encoding cDNA in choroideremia (CHM). DESIGN: Prospective, open-label, non-randomized, dose-escalation, phase 1/2 clinical trial. SUBJECTS, PARTICIPANTS, AND/OR CONTROLS: Fifteen CHM patients (ages 20-57 years at dosing). METHODS, INTERVENTION, OR TESTING: Patients received uniocular subfoveal injections of low dose (up to 5x1010 vector genome (vg) per eye, n=5) or high dose (up to 1x1011 vg per eye, n=10) AAV2-hCHM. Patients were evaluated pre- and post-operatively for two years with ophthalmic examinations, multimodal retinal imaging and psychophysical testing. MAIN OUTCOME: Measures: visual acuity (VA), perimetry (10-2 protocol), spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) and short-wavelength fundus autofluorescence (SW-FAF). RESULTS: We detected no vector-related or systemic toxicities. VA returned to within 15 letters of baseline in all but two patients (one developed acute foveal thinning, another patient, a macular hole); the rest showed no gross changes in foveal structure at two years. There were no significant differences between intervention and control eyes in mean light-adapted sensitivity by perimetry, or in the lateral extent of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) relative preservation by SD-OCT and SW-FAF. Microperimetry showed non-significant (<3SD of the intervisit variability) gains in sensitivity in some locations and participants in the intervention eye. There were no obvious dose-dependent relationships. CONCLUSIONS: VA was within 15 letters of baseline after the subfoveal AAV2-hCHM injections in 13/15 (87%) of the patients. Acute foveal thinning with unchanged perifoveal function in one patient and macular hole in a second suggests foveal vulnerability to the subretinal injections. Longer observation intervals will help establish the significance of the minor differences in sensitivities and rate of disease progression observed between intervention and control eyes.
Inter-species geographic signatures for tracing horizontal gene transfer and long-term persistence of carbapenem resistance. Genome Med 2022;14(1):37.Abstract.
BACKGROUND: Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales (CRE) are an urgent global health threat. Inferring the dynamics of local CRE dissemination is currently limited by our inability to confidently trace the spread of resistance determinants to unrelated bacterial hosts. Whole-genome sequence comparison is useful for identifying CRE clonal transmission and outbreaks, but high-frequency horizontal gene transfer (HGT) of carbapenem resistance genes and subsequent genome rearrangement complicate tracing the local persistence and mobilization of these genes across organisms. METHODS: To overcome this limitation, we developed a new approach to identify recent HGT of large, near-identical plasmid segments across species boundaries, which also allowed us to overcome technical challenges with genome assembly. We applied this to complete and near-complete genome assemblies to examine the local spread of CRE in a systematic, prospective collection of all CRE, as well as time- and species-matched carbapenem-susceptible Enterobacterales, isolated from patients from four US hospitals over nearly 5 years. RESULTS: Our CRE collection comprised a diverse range of species, lineages, and carbapenem resistance mechanisms, many of which were encoded on a variety of promiscuous plasmid types. We found and quantified rearrangement, persistence, and repeated transfer of plasmid segments, including those harboring carbapenemases, between organisms over multiple years. Some plasmid segments were found to be strongly associated with specific locales, thus representing geographic signatures that make it possible to trace recent and localized HGT events. Functional analysis of these signatures revealed genes commonly found in plasmids of nosocomial pathogens, such as functions required for plasmid retention and spread, as well survival against a variety of antibiotic and antiseptics common to the hospital environment. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, the framework we developed provides a clearer, high-resolution picture of the epidemiology of antibiotic resistance importation, spread, and persistence in patients and healthcare networks.
Choice of vector and surgical approach enables efficient cochlear gene transfer in nonhuman primate. Nat Commun 2022;13(1):1359.Abstract.
Inner ear gene therapy using adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV) promises to alleviate hearing and balance disorders. We previously established the benefits of Anc80L65 in targeting inner and outer hair cells in newborn mice. To accelerate translation to humans, we now report the feasibility and efficiency of the surgical approach and vector delivery in a nonhuman primate model. Five rhesus macaques were injected with AAV1 or Anc80L65 expressing eGFP using a transmastoid posterior tympanotomy approach to access the round window membrane after making a small fenestra in the oval window. The procedure was well tolerated. All but one animal showed cochlear eGFP expression 7-14 days following injection. Anc80L65 in 2 animals transduced up to 90% of apical inner hair cells; AAV1 was markedly less efficient at equal dose. Transduction for both vectors declined from apex to base. These data motivate future translational studies to evaluate gene therapy for human hearing disorders.
Early disruption of photoreceptor cell architecture and loss of vision in a humanized pig model of usher syndromes. EMBO Mol Med 2022;14(4):e14817.Abstract.
Usher syndrome (USH) is the most common form of monogenic deaf-blindness. Loss of vision is untreatable and there are no suitable animal models for testing therapeutic strategies of the ocular constituent of USH, so far. By introducing a human mutation into the harmonin-encoding USH1C gene in pigs, we generated the first translational animal model for USH type 1 with characteristic hearing defect, vestibular dysfunction, and visual impairment. Changes in photoreceptor architecture, quantitative motion analysis, and electroretinography were characteristics of the reduced retinal virtue in USH1C pigs. Fibroblasts from USH1C pigs or USH1C patients showed significantly elongated primary cilia, confirming USH as a true and general ciliopathy. Primary cells also proved their capacity for assessing the therapeutic potential of CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene repair or gene therapy in vitro. AAV-based delivery of harmonin into the eye of USH1C pigs indicated therapeutic efficacy in vivo.
Not All Genes Are Created Equal in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. JAMA Ophthalmol 2022;140(3):260-261..
Efficient Delivery of Adeno-Associated Virus into Inner Ear In Vivo Through Trans-Stapes Route in Adult Guinea Pig. Hum Gene Ther 2022;33(13-14):719-728.Abstract.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) are potent vectors to achieve treatment against hearing loss resulting from genetic defects. However, the effects of delivery routes and the corresponding transduction efficiencies for clinical applications remain elusive. In this study, we screened AAV vectors of three serotypes (AAV 8 and 9 and Anc80L65) into the inner ears of adult normal guinea pigs through trans-stapes (oval window) and trans-round window delivery routes in vivo. Trans-stapes route is akin to stape surgeries in humans. Then, auditory brainstem response (ABR) measurements were conducted to evaluate postoperative hearing, and inner ear tissues were harvested for transduction efficiency analysis. Results showed that AAV8 targeted partial inner hair cells (IHCs) in cochlear basal turn; AAV9 targeted IHCs in cochlear basal and second turn, also a part of vestibular hair cells (VHCs). In contrast, Anc80L65 contributed to green fluorescent proteins (GFP) signals of 80 - 95% IHCs and 67 - 91% outer hair cells (OHCs), as well as 69% VHCs through the trans-round window route, with 15-20 decibel (dB) ABR threshold shifts. And, through the trans-stapes (oval window) route, there were 71 - 90% IHCs and 42 - 81% OHCs, along with 64% VHCs demonstrating GFP positive, and the ABR threshold shifts were within 10 dB. This study revealed AAV could be efficiently delivered into mammalian inner ear cells in vivo through the trans-stapes (oval window) route with postoperative hearing preservation, and both delivery routes showed promise of virus-based clinical translation of hearing impairment treatment.
AAV capsid design: A Goldilocks challenge. Trends Mol Med 2022;28(3):183-193.Abstract.
In vivo therapeutic gene transfer has emerged as a novel class of medicines. Its feasibility relies on the safe and efficacious delivery of genetic cargo to the appropriate targets. The adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector manifested itself as a preferred gene delivery vehicle enabling therapeutic gene expression for several clinical indications. Here, we cover the recent trends in AAV capsid engineering to enhance its targeting specificity, safety, and endurance. While each and every desirable trait can be individually remodeled, combining several attributes in one capsid amounts to a significant engineering challenge. Taking advantage of virion structure and phylogenetics, harnessing directed evolution, sequence analyses, and machine learning, researchers develop novel capsid variants to realize the goals of safe and enduring gene therapy.
Engineered virus-like particles for efficient in vivo delivery of therapeutic proteins. Cell 2022;185(2):250-265.e16.Abstract.
Methods to deliver gene editing agents in vivo as ribonucleoproteins could offer safety advantages over nucleic acid delivery approaches. We report the development and application of engineered DNA-free virus-like particles (eVLPs) that efficiently package and deliver base editor or Cas9 ribonucleoproteins. By engineering VLPs to overcome cargo packaging, release, and localization bottlenecks, we developed fourth-generation eVLPs that mediate efficient base editing in several primary mouse and human cell types. Using different glycoproteins in eVLPs alters their cellular tropism. Single injections of eVLPs into mice support therapeutic levels of base editing in multiple tissues, reducing serum Pcsk9 levels 78% following 63% liver editing, and partially restoring visual function in a mouse model of genetic blindness. In vitro and in vivo off-target editing from eVLPs was virtually undetected, an improvement over AAV or plasmid delivery. These results establish eVLPs as promising vehicles for therapeutic macromolecule delivery that combine key advantages of both viral and nonviral delivery.
Influence of the Alternative Sigma Factor RpoN on Global Gene Expression and Carbon Catabolism in Enterococcus faecalis V583. mBio 2021;12(3)Abstract.
The alternative sigma factor σ54 has been shown to regulate the expression of a wide array of virulence-associated genes, as well as central metabolism, in bacterial pathogens. In Gram-positive organisms, the σ54 is commonly associated with carbon metabolism. In this study, we show that the Enterococcus faecalis alternative sigma factor σ54 (RpoN) and its cognate enhancer binding protein MptR are essential for mannose utilization and are primary contributors to glucose uptake through the Mpt phosphotransferase system. To gain further insight into how RpoN contributes to global transcriptional changes, we performed microarray transcriptional analysis of strain V583 and an isogenic rpoN mutant grown in a chemically defined medium with glucose as the sole carbon source. Transcripts of 340 genes were differentially affected in the rpoN mutant; the predicted functions of these genes mainly related to nutrient acquisition. These differentially expressed genes included those with predicted catabolite-responsive element (cre) sites, consistent with loss of repression by the major carbon catabolite repressor CcpA. To determine if the inability to efficiently metabolize glucose/mannose affected infection outcome, we utilized two distinct infection models. We found that the rpoN mutant is significantly attenuated in both rabbit endocarditis and murine catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI). Here, we examined a ccpA mutant in the CAUTI model and showed that the absence of carbon catabolite control also significantly attenuates bacterial tissue burden in this model. Our data highlight the contribution of central carbon metabolism to growth of E. faecalis at various sites of infection.IMPORTANCE Hospital-acquired infections account for 2 billion dollars annually in increased health care expenses and cause more than 100,000 deaths in the United States alone. Enterococci are the second leading cause of hospital-acquired infections. They form biofilms at surgical sites and are often associated with infections of the urinary tract following catheterization. Nutrient uptake and growth are key factors that influence their ability to cause disease. Our research identified a large set of genes that illuminate nutrient uptake pathways in enterococci. Perturbation of the metabolic circuit reduces virulence in a rabbit endocarditis model, as well as in catheter-associated urinary tract infection in mice. Targeting metabolic pathways that are important in infection may lead to new treatments against multidrug-resistant enterococcal infections.
Antisense Oligonucleotide Therapy for Ophthalmic Conditions. Semin Ophthalmol 2021;36(5-6):452-457.Abstract.
Antisense oligonucleotides (AON) are synthetic single-stranded fragments of nucleic acids that bind to a specific complementary messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence and change the final gene product. AON were initially approved for treating cytomegalovirus retinitis and have shown promise in treating Mendelian systemic disease. AON are currently being investigated as a treatment modality for many ophthalmic diseases, including inherited retinal disorders (IRD), inflammatory response and wound healing after glaucoma surgery, and macular degeneration. They provide a possible solution to gene therapy for IRD that are not candidates for adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivery. This chapter outlines the historical background of AON and reviews clinical applications and ongoing clinical trials.
Gene editing technology: Towards precision medicine in inherited retinal diseases. Semin Ophthalmol 2021;36(4):176-184.Abstract.
Purpose: To review preclinical and clinical advances in gene therapy, with a focus on gene editing technologies, and application to inherited retinal disease.Methods: A narrative overview of the literature, summarizing the state-of-the-art in clinical gene therapy for inherited retinal disease, as well as the science and application of new gene editing technology.Results: The last three years has seen the first FDA approval of an in vivo gene replacement therapy for a hereditary blinding eye disease and, recently, the first clinical application of an in vivo gene editing technique. Limitations and challenges in this evolving field are highlighted, as well as new technologies developed to address the multitude of molecular mechanisms of disease.Conclusion: Genetic therapy for the treatment of inherited retinal disease is a rapidly expanding area of ophthalmology. New technologies have revolutionized the field of genome engineering and rekindled an interest in precision medicines for these conditions.
Genetic causes of nystagmus, foveal hypoplasia and subnormal visual acuity- other than albinism. Ophthalmic Genet 2021;42(3):243-251.Abstract.
Background: To describe genetic molecular findings in individuals with congenital nystagmus, foveal hypoplasia, and subnormal vision, with normal ocular pigmentation (absence of diffuse transillumination or transparent retinal pigment typical for albinism).Methods: This is a retrospective, multicenter study of ophthalmic, systemic, and genetic features, as collected from medical records of patients diagnosed with infantile nystagmus and foveal hypoplasia. Ophthalmic findings include best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), biomicroscopic examination, cycloplegic refraction, retinal examination, macular optical coherence tomography, and electroretinography. Genetic information was retrieved from the participating genetic clinics and included ethnicity and molecular diagnosis.Results: Thirty-one individuals met the inclusion criteria and had a secure molecular diagnosis. Mutations in two genes predominated, constituting 77.4% of all the represented genes: SLC38A8 (45.1%) and PAX6 (32.3%). Seventy-eight percent of the subjects who had a measurable BCVA had moderate and severe visual impairment (range 20/80 to 20/270). Most patients with a mutation in SLC38A8 had mild to moderate astigmatism, while most patients with PAX6 mutation had moderate and severe myopia. Patients in the PAX6 group had variable degrees of anterior segment manifestations.Conclusion: In our cohort, the main causative genes for congenital nystagmus and foveal hypoplasia in normally pigmented eyes were SLC38A8 and PAX6. A mild phenotype in PAX6 mutations may be an under-diagnosed cause of nystagmus and foveal hypoplasia. Reaching an accurate genetic diagnosis is essential for both the patients and their family members. This enables predicting disease prognosis, tailoring correct follow-up, and providing genetic counseling and family planning to affected families.
Engineering adeno-associated viral vectors to evade innate immune and inflammatory responses. Sci Transl Med 2021;13(580)Abstract.
Nucleic acids are used in many therapeutic modalities, including gene therapy, but their ability to trigger host immune responses in vivo can lead to decreased safety and efficacy. In the case of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors, studies have shown that the genome of the vector activates Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), a pattern recognition receptor that senses foreign DNA. Here, we engineered AAV vectors to be intrinsically less immunogenic by incorporating short DNA oligonucleotides that antagonize TLR9 activation directly into the vector genome. The engineered vectors elicited markedly reduced innate immune and T cell responses and enhanced gene expression in clinically relevant mouse and pig models across different tissues, including liver, muscle, and retina. Subretinal administration of higher-dose AAV in pigs resulted in photoreceptor pathology with microglia and T cell infiltration. These adverse findings were avoided in the contralateral eyes of the same animals that were injected with the engineered vectors. However, intravitreal injection of higher-dose AAV in macaques, a more immunogenic route of administration, showed that the engineered vector delayed but did not prevent clinical uveitis, suggesting that other immune factors in addition to TLR9 may contribute to intraocular inflammation in this model. Our results demonstrate that linking specific immunomodulatory noncoding sequences to much longer therapeutic nucleic acids can "cloak" the vector from inducing unwanted immune responses in multiple, but not all, models. This "coupled immunomodulation" strategy may widen the therapeutic window for AAV therapies as well as other DNA-based gene transfer methods.
Comparative influence of differentiation and proliferation on gene expression in human meibomian gland epithelial cells. Exp Eye Res 2021;205:108452.Abstract.
We recently discovered that by changing environmental signals, differentiated immortalized human meibomian gland epithelial cells (IHMGECs) de-differentiate into proliferating cells. We also discovered that following exposure to appropriate stimuli, these proliferative cells re-differentiate into differentiated IHMGECs. We hypothesize that this plasticity of differentiated and proliferative IHMGECs is paralleled by very significant alterations in cellular gene expression. To begin to test this hypothesis, we compared the gene expression patterns of IHMGECs during differentiation and proliferation. IHMGECs were cultured for four days in either differentiating or proliferating media. After four days of culture, cells were processed for the analysis of gene expression by using Illumina BeadChips and bioinformatic software. Our study identified significant differences in the expression of more than 9200 genes in differentiated and proliferative IHMGECs. Differentiation was associated with significant increases in the expression of specific genes (e.g. S100 calcium binding protein P; 7,194,386-fold upregulation) and numerous ontologies (e.g. 83 biological process [bp] ontologies with ≥100 genes were upregulated), such as those related to development, transport and lysosomes. Proliferation also led to a significant rise in specific gene expressions (e.g. cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide; 859,100-fold upregulation) and many ontologies (115 biological process [bp] ontologies with ≥100 genes were upregulated), with most of the highly significant ontologies related to cell cycle (z scores > 13.9). Our findings demonstrate that gene expression in differentiated and proliferative IHMGECs is extremely different. These results may have significant implications for the regeneration of HMGECs and the reversal of MG dropout in MG dysfunction.