Gene Therapy

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Aleman TS, Huckfeldt RM, Serrano LW, Pearson DJ, Vergilio GK, McCague S, Marshall KA, Ashtari M, Doan TM, Weigel-DiFranco CA, Biron BS, Wen X-H, Chung DC, Liu E, Ferenchak K, Morgan JIW, Pierce EA, Eliott D, Bennett J, Comander J, Maguire AM. 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.
von Alpen D, Tran HV, Guex N, Venturini G, Munier FL, Schorderet DF, Haider NB, Escher P. Differential Dimerization of Variants Linked to Enhanced S-Cone Sensitivity Syndrome (ESCS) Located in the NR2E3 Ligand-Binding Domain. Hum Mutat 2015;36(6):599-610.Abstract

NR2E3 encodes the photoreceptor-specific nuclear hormone receptor that acts as a repressor of cone-specific gene expression in rod photoreceptors, and as an activator of several rod-specific genes. Recessive variants located in the ligand-binding domain (LBD) of NR2E3 cause enhanced short wavelength sensitive- (S-) cone syndrome (ESCS), a retinal degeneration characterized by an excess of S-cones and non-functional rods. We analyzed the dimerization properties of NR2E3 and the effect of disease-causing LBD missense variants by bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET(2) ) protein interaction assays. Homodimerization was not affected in presence of p.A256V, p.R039G, p.R311Q, and p.R334G variants, but abolished in presence of p.L263P, p.L336P, p.L353V, p.R385P, and p.M407K variants. Homology modeling predicted structural changes induced by NR2E3 LBD variants. NR2E3 LBD variants did not affect interaction with CRX, but with NRL and rev-erbα/NR1D1. CRX and NRL heterodimerized more efficiently together, than did either with NR2E3. NR2E3 did not heterodimerize with TLX/NR2E1 and RXRα/NR2C1. The identification of a new compound heterozygous patient with detectable rod function, who expressed solely the p.A256V variant protein, suggests a correlation between LBD variants able to form functional NR2E3 dimers and atypical mild forms of ESCS with residual rod function.

Amamoto R, Zuccaro E, Curry NC, Khurana S, Chen H-H, Cepko CL, Arlotta P. FIN-Seq: transcriptional profiling of specific cell types from frozen archived tissue of the human central nervous system. Nucleic Acids Res 2020;48(1):e4.Abstract
Thousands of frozen, archived tissue samples from the human central nervous system (CNS) are currently available in brain banks. As recent developments in RNA sequencing technologies are beginning to elucidate the cellular diversity present within the human CNS, it is becoming clear that an understanding of this diversity would greatly benefit from deeper transcriptional analyses. Single cell and single nucleus RNA profiling provide one avenue to decipher this heterogeneity. An alternative, complementary approach is to profile isolated, pre-defined cell types and use methods that can be applied to many archived human tissue samples that have been stored long-term. Here, we developed FIN-Seq (Frozen Immunolabeled Nuclei Sequencing), a method that accomplishes these goals. FIN-Seq uses immunohistochemical isolation of nuclei of specific cell types from frozen human tissue, followed by bulk RNA-Sequencing. We applied this method to frozen postmortem samples of human cerebral cortex and retina and were able to identify transcripts, including low abundance transcripts, in specific cell types.
Andres-Mateos E, Landegger LD, Unzu C, Phillips J, Lin BM, Dewyer NA, Sanmiguel J, Nicolaou F, Valero MD, Bourdeu KI, Sewell WF, Beiler RJ, McKenna MJ, Stankovic KM, Vandenberghe LH. 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.
Arboleda-Velasquez JF, Lopera F, O'Hare M, Delgado-Tirado S, Marino C, Chmielewska N, Saez-Torres KL, Amarnani D, Schultz AP, Sperling RA, Leyton-Cifuentes D, Chen K, Baena A, Aguillon D, Rios-Romenets S, Giraldo M, Guzmán-Vélez E, Norton DJ, Pardilla-Delgado E, Artola A, Sanchez JS, Acosta-Uribe J, Lalli M, Kosik KS, Huentelman MJ, Zetterberg H, Blennow K, Reiman RA, Luo J, Chen Y, Thiyyagura P, Su Y, Jun GR, Naymik M, Gai X, Bootwalla M, Ji J, Shen L, Miller JB, Kim LA, Tariot PN, Johnson KA, Reiman EM, Quiroz YT. Resistance to autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease in an APOE3 Christchurch homozygote: a case report. Nat Med 2019;25(11):1680-1683.Abstract
We identified a PSEN1 (presenilin 1) mutation carrier from the world's largest autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease kindred, who did not develop mild cognitive impairment until her seventies, three decades after the expected age of clinical onset. The individual had two copies of the APOE3 Christchurch (R136S) mutation, unusually high brain amyloid levels and limited tau and neurodegenerative measurements. Our findings have implications for the role of APOE in the pathogenesis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
Arendt D, Musser JM, Baker CVH, Bergman A, Cepko C, Erwin DH, Pavlicev M, Schlosser G, Widder S, Laubichler MD, Wagner GP. The origin and evolution of cell types. Nat Rev Genet 2016;17(12):744-757.Abstract

Cell types are the basic building blocks of multicellular organisms and are extensively diversified in animals. Despite recent advances in characterizing cell types, classification schemes remain ambiguous. We propose an evolutionary definition of a cell type that allows cell types to be delineated and compared within and between species. Key to cell type identity are evolutionary changes in the 'core regulatory complex' (CoRC) of transcription factors, that make emergent sister cell types distinct, enable their independent evolution and regulate cell type-specific traits termed apomeres. We discuss the distinction between developmental and evolutionary lineages, and present a roadmap for future research.

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Ballios BG, Pierce EA, Huckfeldt RM. 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.
Banskota S, Raguram A, Suh S, Du SW, Davis JR, Choi EH, Wang X, Nielsen SC, Newby GA, Randolph PB, Osborn MJ, Musunuru K, Palczewski K, Liu DR. 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.
Beier KT, Mundell NA, Pan AY, Cepko CL. Anterograde or Retrograde Transsynaptic Circuit Tracing in Vertebrates with Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Vectors. Curr Protoc Neurosci 2016;74:1.26.1-1.26.27.Abstract

Viruses have been used as transsynaptic tracers, allowing one to map the inputs and outputs of neuronal populations, due to their ability to replicate in neurons and transmit in vivo only across synaptically connected cells. To date, their use has been largely restricted to mammals. In order to explore the use of such viruses in an expanded host range, we tested the transsynaptic tracing ability of recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vectors in a variety of organisms. Successful infection and gene expression were achieved in a wide range of organisms, including vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms. Moreover, rVSV enabled transsynaptic tracing of neural circuitry in predictable directions dictated by the viral envelope glycoprotein (G), derived from either VSV or rabies virus (RABV). Anterograde and retrograde labeling, from initial infection and/or viral replication and transmission, was observed in Old and New World monkeys, seahorses, jellyfish, zebrafish, chickens, and mice. These vectors are widely applicable for gene delivery, afferent tract tracing, and/or directional connectivity mapping. Here, we detail the use of these vectors and provide protocols for propagating virus, changing the surface glycoprotein, and infecting multiple organisms using several injection strategies. © 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Berry JL, Polski A, Cavenee WK, Dryja TP, Murphree LA, Gallie BL. The Story: Characterization and Cloning of the First Tumor Suppressor Gene. Genes (Basel) 2019;10(11)Abstract
The gene is the first described human tumor suppressor gene and plays an integral role in the development of retinoblastoma, a pediatric malignancy of the eye. Since its discovery, the stepwise characterization and cloning of have laid the foundation for numerous advances in the understanding of tumor suppressor genes, retinoblastoma tumorigenesis, and inheritance. Knowledge of led to a paradigm shift in the field of cancer genetics, including widespread acceptance of the concept of tumor suppressor genes, and has provided crucial diagnostic and prognostic information through genetic testing for patients affected by retinoblastoma. This article reviews the long history of gene research, characterization, and cloning, and also discusses recent advances in retinoblastoma genetics that have grown out of this foundational work.
Bujakowska KM, Comander J. Moving Towards PDE6A Gene Supplementation Therapy. JAMA Ophthalmol 2020;
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Carvalho LS, Vandenberghe LH. Promising and delivering gene therapies for vision loss. Vision Res 2015;111(Pt B):124-33.Abstract
The maturity in our understanding of the genetics and the pathogenesis of disease in degenerative retinal disorders has intersected in past years with a novel treatment paradigm in which a genetic intervention may lead to sustained therapeutic benefit, and in some cases even restoration of vision. Here, we review this prospect of retinal gene therapy, discuss the enabling technologies that have led to first-in-human demonstrations of efficacy and safety, and the road that led to this exciting point in time.
Carvalho LS, Xiao R, Wassmer SJ, Langsdorf A, Zinn E, Pacouret S, Shah S, Comander JI, Kim LA, Lim L, Vandenberghe LH. Synthetic Adeno-Associated Viral Vector Efficiently Targets Mouse and Nonhuman Primate Retina In Vivo. Hum Gene Ther 2018;29(7):771-784.Abstract
Gene therapy is a promising approach in the treatment of inherited and common complex disorders of the retina. Preclinical and clinical studies have validated the use of adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV) as a safe and efficient delivery vehicle for gene transfer. Retinal pigment epithelium and rods-and to a lesser extent, cone photoreceptors-can be efficiently targeted with AAV. Other retinal cell types however are more challenging targets. The aim of this study was to characterize the transduction profile and efficiency of in silico designed, synthetic Anc80 AAVs for retinal gene transfer. Three Anc80 variants were evaluated for retinal targeting in mice and primates following subretinal delivery. In the murine retina Anc80L65 demonstrated high level of retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptor targeting with comparable cone photoreceptor affinity compared to other AAVs. Remarkably, Anc80L65 enhanced transduction kinetics with visible expression as early as day 1 and steady state mRNA levels at day 3. Inner retinal tropism of Anc80 variants demonstrated distinct transduction patterns of Müller glia, retinal ganglion cells and inner nuclear layer neurons. Finally, murine findings with Anc80L65 qualitatively translated to the Rhesus macaque in terms of cell targets, levels and onset of expression. Our findings support the use of Anc80L65 for therapeutic subretinal gene delivery.
Cepko CL, Vandenberghe LH. Retinal gene therapy coming of age. Hum Gene Ther 2013;24(3):242-4.
Cepko CL. Emerging gene therapies for retinal degenerations. J Neurosci 2012;32(19):6415-20.
Cepko C, Punzo C. Cell metabolism: Sugar for sight. Nature 2015;522(7557):428-9.
Chan YK, Wang SK, Chu CJ, Copland DA, Letizia AJ, Costa Verdera H, Chiang JJ, Sethi M, Wang MK, Neidermyer WJ, Chan Y, Lim ET, Graveline AR, Sanchez M, Boyd RF, Vihtelic TS, Inciong RGCO, Slain JM, Alphonse PJ, Xue Y, Robinson-McCarthy LR, Tam JM, Jabbar MH, Sahu B, Adeniran JF, Muhuri M, Tai PWL, Xie J, Krause TB, Vernet A, Pezone M, Xiao R, Liu T, Wang W, Kaplan HJ, Gao G, Dick AD, Mingozzi F, McCall MA, Cepko CL, Church GM. 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.
Choi VW, Bigelow CE, McGee TL, Gujar AN, Li H, Hanks SM, Vrouvlianis J, Maker M, Leehy B, Zhang Y, Aranda J, Bounoutas G, Demirs JT, Yang J, Ornberg R, Wang Y, Martin W, Stout KR, Argentieri G, Grosenstein P, Diaz D, Turner O, Jaffee BD, Police SR, Dryja TP. AAV-mediated RLBP1 gene therapy improves the rate of dark adaptation in Rlbp1 knockout mice. Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev 2015;2:15022.Abstract

Recessive mutations in RLBP1 cause a form of retinitis pigmentosa in which the retina, before its degeneration leads to blindness, abnormally slowly recovers sensitivity after exposure to light. To develop a potential gene therapy for this condition, we tested multiple recombinant adeno-associated vectors (rAAVs) composed of different promoters, capsid serotypes, and genome conformations. We generated rAAVs in which sequences from the promoters of the human RLBP1, RPE65, or BEST1 genes drove the expression of a reporter gene (green fluorescent protein). A promoter derived from the RLBP1 gene mediated expression in the retinal pigment epithelium and Müller cells (the intended target cell types) at qualitatively higher levels than in other retinal cell types in wild-type mice and monkeys. With this promoter upstream of the coding sequence of the human RLBP1 gene, we compared the potencies of vectors with an AAV2 versus an AAV8 capsid in transducing mouse retinas, and we compared vectors with a self-complementary versus a single-stranded genome. The optimal vector (scAAV8-pRLBP1-hRLBP1) had serotype 8 capsid and a self-complementary genome. Subretinal injection of scAAV8-pRLBP1-hRLBP1 in Rlbp1 nullizygous mice improved the rate of dark adaptation based on scotopic (rod-plus-cone) and photopic (cone) electroretinograms (ERGs). The effect was still present after 1 year.

Conde P, Rodriguez M, van der Touw W, Jimenez A, Burns M, Miller J, Brahmachary M, Chen H-M, Boros P, Rausell-Palamos F, Yun TJ, Riquelme P, Rastrojo A, Aguado B, Stein-Streilein J, Tanaka M, Zhou L, Zhang J, Lowary TL, Ginhoux F, Park CG, Cheong C, Brody J, Turley SJ, Lira SA, Bronte V, Gordon S, Heeger PS, Merad M, Hutchinson J, Chen S-H, Ochando J. DC-SIGN(+) Macrophages Control the Induction of Transplantation Tolerance. Immunity 2015;42(6):1143-58.Abstract

Tissue effector cells of the monocyte lineage can differentiate into different cell types with specific cell function depending on their environment. The phenotype, developmental requirements, and functional mechanisms of immune protective macrophages that mediate the induction of transplantation tolerance remain elusive. Here, we demonstrate that costimulatory blockade favored accumulation of DC-SIGN-expressing macrophages that inhibited CD8(+) T cell immunity and promoted CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cell expansion in numbers. Mechanistically, that simultaneous DC-SIGN engagement by fucosylated ligands and TLR4 signaling was required for production of immunoregulatory IL-10 associated with prolonged allograft survival. Deletion of DC-SIGN-expressing macrophages in vivo, interfering with their CSF1-dependent development, or preventing the DC-SIGN signaling pathway abrogated tolerance. Together, the results provide new insights into the tolerogenic effects of costimulatory blockade and identify DC-SIGN(+) suppressive macrophages as crucial mediators of immunological tolerance with the concomitant therapeutic implications in the clinic.

Cruz NM, Yuan Y, Leehy BD, Baid R, Kompella U, Deangelis MM, Escher P, Haider NB. Modifier genes as therapeutics: the nuclear hormone receptor Rev Erb alpha (Nr1d1) rescues Nr2e3 associated retinal disease. PLoS One 2014;9(1):e87942.Abstract
Nuclear hormone receptors play a major role in many important biological processes. Most nuclear hormone receptors are ubiquitously expressed and regulate processes such as metabolism, circadian function, and development. They function in these processes to maintain homeostasis through modulation of transcriptional gene networks. In this study we evaluate the effectiveness of a nuclear hormone receptor gene to modulate retinal degeneration and restore the integrity of the retina. Currently, there are no effective treatment options for retinal degenerative diseases leading to progressive and irreversible blindness. In this study we demonstrate that the nuclear hormone receptor gene Nr1d1 (Rev-Erbα) rescues Nr2e3-associated retinal degeneration in the rd7 mouse, which lacks a functional Nr2e3 gene. Mutations in human NR2E3 are associated with several retinal degenerations including enhanced S cone syndrome and retinitis pigmentosa. The rd7 mouse, lacking Nr2e3, exhibits an increase in S cones and slow, progressive retinal degeneration. A traditional genetic mapping approach previously identified candidate modifier loci. Here, we demonstrate that in vivo delivery of the candidate modifier gene, Nr1d1 rescues Nr2e3 associated retinal degeneration. We observed clinical, histological, functional, and molecular restoration of the rd7 retina. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the mechanism of rescue at the molecular and functional level is through the re-regulation of key genes within the Nr2e3-directed transcriptional network. Together, these findings reveal the potency of nuclear receptors as modulators of disease and specifically of NR1D1 as a novel therapeutic for retinal degenerations.

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