Retinal Degenerations

Retinal Degenerations Publications

Mukai R, Park DH, Okunuki Y, Hasegawa E, Klokman G, Kim CB, Krishnan A, Gregory-Ksander M, Husain D, Miller JW, Connor KM. Mouse model of ocular hypertension with retinal ganglion cell degeneration. PLoS One 2019;14(1):e0208713.Abstract
OBJECTIVES: Ocular hypertension is a primary risk factor for glaucoma and results in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) degeneration. Current animal models of glaucoma lack severe RGC cell death as seen in glaucoma, making assessment of physiological mediators of cell death difficult. We developed a modified mouse model of ocular hypertension whereby long-lasting elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) is achieved, resulting in significant reproducible damage to RGCs. RESULTS: In this model, microbeads are mixed with hyaluronic acid and injected into the anterior chamber of C57BL/6J mice. The hyaluronic acid allows for a gradual release of microbeads, resulting in sustained blockage of Schlemm's canal. IOP elevation was bimodal during the course of the model's progression. The first peak occurred 1 hours after beads injection, with an IOP value of 44.69 ± 6.00 mmHg, and the second peak occurred 6-12 days post-induction, with an IOP value of 34.91 ± 5.21 mmHg. RGC damage was most severe in the peripheral retina, with a loss of 64.1% compared to that of untreated eyes, while the midperiphery exhibited a 32.4% loss, 4 weeks following disease induction. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that sustained IOP elevation causes more RGC damage in the periphery than in the midperiphery of the retina. This model yields significant and reproducible RGC degeneration.
Wareham LK, Dordea AC, Schleifer G, Yao V, Batten A, Fei F, Mertz J, Gregory-Ksander M, Pasquale LR, Buys ES, Sappington RM. Increased bioavailability of cyclic guanylate monophosphate prevents retinal ganglion cell degeneration. Neurobiol Dis 2019;121:65-75.Abstract
The nitric oxide - guanylyl cyclase-1 - cyclic guanylate monophosphate (NO-GC-1-cGMP) pathway has emerged as a potential pathogenic mechanism for glaucoma, a common intraocular pressure (IOP)-related optic neuropathy characterized by the degeneration of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and their axons in the optic nerve. NO activates GC-1 to increase cGMP levels, which are lowered by cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase (PDE) activity. This pathway appears to play a role in both the regulation of IOP, where reduced cGMP levels in mice leads to elevated IOP and subsequent RGC degeneration. Here, we investigated whether potentiation of cGMP signaling could protect RGCs from glaucomatous degeneration. We administered the PDE5 inhibitor tadalafil orally (10 mg/kg/day) in murine models of two forms of glaucoma - primary open angle glaucoma (POAG; GC-1 mice) and primary angle-closure glaucoma (PACG; Microbead Occlusion Model) - and measured RGC viability at both the soma and axon level. To determine the direct effect of increased cGMP on RGCs in vitro, we treated axotomized whole retina and primary RGC cultures with the cGMP analogue 8-Br-cGMP. Tadalafil treatment increased plasma cGMP levels in both models, but did not alter IOP or mean arterial pressure. Nonetheless, tadalafil treatment prevented degeneration of RGC soma and axons in both disease models. Treatment of whole, axotomized retina and primary RGC cultures with 8-Br-cGMP markedly attenuated both necrotic and apoptotic cell death pathways in RGCs. Our findings suggest that enhancement of the NO-GC-1-cGMP pathway protects the RGC body and axon in murine models of POAG and PACG, and that enhanced signaling through this pathway may serve as a novel glaucoma treatment, acting independently of IOP.
Jamshidi F, Place EM, Mehrotra S, Navarro-Gomez D, Maher M, Branham KE, Valkanas E, Cherry TJ, Lek M, MacArthur D, Pierce EA, Bujakowska KM. Contribution of noncoding pathogenic variants to RPGRIP1-mediated inherited retinal degeneration. Genet Med 2019;21(3):694-704.Abstract
PURPOSE: With the advent of gene therapies for inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs), genetic diagnostics will have an increasing role in clinical decision-making. Yet the genetic cause of disease cannot be identified using exon-based sequencing for a significant portion of patients. We hypothesized that noncoding pathogenic variants contribute significantly to the genetic causality of IRDs and evaluated patients with single coding pathogenic variants in RPGRIP1 to test this hypothesis. METHODS: IRD families underwent targeted panel sequencing. Unsolved cases were explored by exome and genome sequencing looking for additional pathogenic variants. Candidate pathogenic variants were then validated by Sanger sequencing, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and in vitro splicing assays in two cell lines analyzed through amplicon sequencing. RESULTS: Among 1722 families, 3 had biallelic loss-of-function pathogenic variants in RPGRIP1 while 7 had a single disruptive coding pathogenic variants. Exome and genome sequencing revealed potential noncoding pathogenic variants in these 7 families. In 6, the noncoding pathogenic variants were shown to lead to loss of function in vitro. CONCLUSION: Noncoding pathogenic variants were identified in 6 of 7 families with single coding pathogenic variants in RPGRIP1. The results suggest that noncoding pathogenic variants contribute significantly to the genetic causality of IRDs and RPGRIP1-mediated IRDs are more common than previously thought.
Group MTT 2-PCNTFR2, Chew EY, Clemons TE, Jaffe GJ, Johnson CA, Farsiu S, Lad EM, Guymer R, Rosenfeld P, Hubschman J-P, Constable I, Wiley H, Singerman LJ, Gillies M, Comer G, Blodi B, Eliott D, Yan J, Bird A, Friedlander M. Effect of Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor on Retinal Neurodegeneration in Patients with Macular Telangiectasia Type 2: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Ophthalmology 2018;Abstract
PURPOSE: To test the effects of an encapsulated cell-based delivery of a neuroprotective agent, ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) on progression of macular telangiectasia type 2, a neurodegenerative disease with no proven effective therapy. DESIGN: Randomized sham-controlled clinical trial PARTICIPANTS: 99 study eyes of 67 eligible participants were enrolled. METHODS: Single-masked randomized clinical trial of 24 months duration conducted May 2014 to April 2017 in eleven clinical centers of retinal specialists in United States and Australia. Participants were randomized 1:1 surgical implant of intravitreal sustained delivery of human ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) vs. sham procedure. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the difference in the area of neurodegeneration as measured in the area of the ellipsoid zone disruption (or photoreceptor loss) measured on spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) images at 24 months from baseline between the treated and untreated groups. Secondary outcomes included comparison of visual function changes between treatment groups. RESULTS: Among the 67 participants who were randomized (mean age, 62 ± 8.9 years, 41 (61%) women, 58 (86%) white), 65 (97%) completed the study. Two participants (3 study eyes) died and 3 (4 eyes) were found ineligible. The eyes receiving sham treatment had 31% greater progression of neurodegeneration than the CNTF-treated eyes, the difference in mean area of photoreceptor loss was 0.05 ± 0.03 mm (p = 0.04) at 24 months. Retinal sensitivity changes, measured using microperimetry, were highly correlated with the changes in the area of photoreceptor loss (r = 0.86, p < 0.0001). The mean retinal sensitivity loss of the sham group was 45% greater than the treated group (decrease of 15.81±8.93 dB [p=0.07]). Reading speed deteriorated in the sham group (-13.9 words per minute) with no loss in the treated eyes (p = 0.02). Serious adverse ocular effects were found in 2/51 (4%) of the sham group and 2/48 (4%) in the treated group. CONCLUSIONS: In participants with macular telangiectasia type 2, a surgical implant that released CNTF into the vitreous cavity, compared with a sham procedure, slowed the progression of retinal degeneration. Further research is needed to assess longer-term clinical outcomes and safety.
Shi C, Yuan X, Chang K, Cho K-S, Xie XS, Chen DF, Luo G. Optimization of Optomotor Response-based Visual Function Assessment in Mice. Sci Rep 2018;8(1):9708.Abstract
Optomotor response/reflex (OMR) assays are emerging as a powerful and versatile tool for phenotypic study and new drug discovery for eye and brain disorders. Yet efficient OMR assessment for visual performance in mice remains a challenge. Existing OMR testing devices for mice require a lengthy procedure and may be subject to bias due to use of artificial criteria. We developed an optimized staircase protocol that utilizes mouse head pausing behavior as a novel indicator for the absence of OMR, to allow rapid and unambiguous vision assessment. It provided a highly sensitive and reliable method that can be easily implemented into automated or manual OMR systems to allow quick and unbiased assessment for visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in mice. The sensitivity and quantitative capacity of the protocol were validated using wild type mice and an inherited mouse model of retinal degeneration - mice carrying rhodopsin deficiency and exhibiting progressive loss of photoreceptors. Our OMR system with this protocol was capable of detecting progressive visual function decline that was closely correlated with the loss of photoreceptors in rhodopsin deficient mice. It provides significant advances over the existing methods in the currently available OMR devices in terms of sensitivity, accuracy and efficiency.
Gupta PR, Huckfeldt RM. Gene therapy for inherited retinal degenerations: initial successes and future challenges. J Neural Eng 2017;14(5):051002.Abstract
Inherited retinal degenerations are a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of conditions that have historically shared an untreatable course. In recent years, however, a wide range of therapeutic strategies have demonstrated efficacy in preclinical studies and entered clinical trials with a common goal of improving visual function for patients affected with these conditions. Gene therapy offers a particularly elegant and precise opportunity to target the causative genetic mutations underlying these monogenic diseases. The present review will provide an overview of gene therapy with particular emphasis on key clinical results to date and challenges for the future.
Bujakowska KM, Fernandez-Godino R, Place E, Consugar M, Navarro-Gomez D, White J, Bedoukian EC, Zhu X, Xie HM, Gai X, Leroy BP, Pierce EA. Copy-number variation is an important contributor to the genetic causality of inherited retinal degenerations. Genet Med 2017;19(6):643-651.Abstract
PURPOSE: Despite substantial progress in sequencing, current strategies can genetically solve only approximately 55-60% of inherited retinal degeneration (IRD) cases. This can be partially attributed to elusive mutations in the known IRD genes, which are not easily identified by the targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) or Sanger sequencing approaches. We hypothesized that copy-number variations (CNVs) are a major contributor to the elusive genetic causality of IRDs. METHODS: Twenty-eight cases previously unsolved with a targeted NGS were investigated with whole-genome single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) arrays. RESULTS: Deletions in the IRD genes were detected in 5 of 28 families, including a de novo deletion. We suggest that the de novo deletion occurred through nonallelic homologous recombination (NAHR) and we constructed a genomic map of NAHR-prone regions with overlapping IRD genes. In this article, we also report an unusual case of recessive retinitis pigmentosa due to compound heterozygous mutations in SNRNP200, a gene that is typically associated with the dominant form of this disease. CONCLUSIONS: CNV mapping substantially increased the genetic diagnostic rate of IRDs, detecting genetic causality in 18% of previously unsolved cases. Extending the search to other structural variations will probably demonstrate an even higher contribution to genetic causality of IRDs.Genet Med advance online publication 13 October 2016.
Huckfeldt RM, Comander J. Management of Cystoid Macular Edema in Retinitis Pigmentosa. Semin Ophthalmol 2017;32(1):43-51.Abstract

Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetically heterogeneous disorder with an estimated prevalence of one in 4,000 that is classically characterized by the progressive constriction of peripheral vision and a later deterioration of visual acuity. Central vision can be compromised earlier in disease, however, in the approximately 25% of patients that have cystoid macular edema. This poorly understood problem can thus significantly impair patient quality of life, particularly as available treatments have limited efficacy. We will review clinical features of retinitis pigmentosa-associated cystoid macular edema, potential causative mechanisms, and finally, evidence supporting currently employed therapies with emphasis upon which management strategies require further evidence-based evaluation.


PURPOSE: Inherited retinal dystrophies are a significant cause of vision loss and are characterized by the loss of photoreceptors and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Mutations in approximately 250 genes cause inherited retinal degenerations with a high degree of genetic heterogeneity. New techniques in next-generation sequencing are allowing the comprehensive analysis of all retinal disease genes thus changing the approach to the molecular diagnosis of inherited retinal dystrophies. This review serves to analyze clinical progress in genetic diagnostic testing and implications for retinal gene therapy. METHODS: A literature search of PubMed and OMIM was conducted to relevant articles in inherited retinal dystrophies. RESULTS: Next-generation genetic sequencing allows the simultaneous analysis of all the approximately 250 genes that cause inherited retinal dystrophies. Reported diagnostic rates range are high and range from 51% to 57%. These new sequencing tools are highly accurate with sensitivities of 97.9% and specificities of 100%. Retinal gene therapy clinical trials are underway for multiple genes including RPE65, ABCA4, CHM, RS1, MYO7A, CNGA3, CNGB3, ND4, and MERTK for which a molecular diagnosis may be beneficial for patients. CONCLUSION: Comprehensive next-generation genetic sequencing of all retinal dystrophy genes is changing the paradigm for how retinal specialists perform genetic testing for inherited retinal degenerations. Not only are high diagnostic yields obtained, but mutations in genes with novel clinical phenotypes are also identified. In the era of retinal gene therapy clinical trials, identifying specific genetic defects will increasingly be of use to identify patients who may enroll in clinical studies and benefit from novel therapies.

Duan Y, Ma G, Huang X, D'Amore PA, Zhang F, Lei H. The Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeats-associated Endonuclease 9 (CRISPR/Cas9)-created MDM2 T309G Mutation Enhances Vitreous-induced Expression of MDM2 and Proliferation and Survival of Cells. J Biol Chem 2016;291(31):16339-47.Abstract

The G309 allele of SNPs in the mouse double minute (MDM2) promoter locus is associated with a higher risk of cancer and proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), but whether SNP G309 contributes to the pathogenesis of PVR is to date unknown. The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated endonuclease (Cas) 9 from Streptococcus pyogenes (SpCas9) can be harnessed to manipulate a single or multiple nucleotides in mammalian cells. Here we delivered SpCas9 and guide RNAs using dual adeno-associated virus-derived vectors to target the MDM2 genomic locus together with a homologous repair template for creating the mutation of MDM2 T309G in human primary retinal pigment epithelial (hPRPE) cells whose genotype is MDM2 T309T. The next-generation sequencing results indicated that there was 42.51% MDM2 G309 in the edited hPRPE cells using adeno-associated viral CRISPR/Cas9. Our data showed that vitreous induced an increase in MDM2 and subsequent attenuation of p53 expression in MDM2 T309G hPRPE cells. Furthermore, our experimental results demonstrated that MDM2 T309G in hPRPE cells enhanced vitreous-induced cell proliferation and survival, suggesting that this SNP contributes to the pathogenesis of PVR.

Wu N, Wang Y, Yang L, Cho K-S. Signaling Networks of Retinal Ganglion Cell Formation and the Potential Application of Stem Cell-Based Therapy in Retinal Degenerative Diseases. Hum Gene Ther 2016;27(8):609-620.Abstract

Retinal degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and glaucoma result in permanent loss of retinal neurons and vision. Stem cell therapy could be a novel treatment strategy to restore visual function. In an ideal situation, a homogenous population of stem cell-derived retinal neurons with high purity is used for replacement therapy. Thus, it is crucial to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of retinal progenitor cells and subsequent generation of specific retinal neurons. Here, recent findings concerning the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that regulate retinal progenitor cell maintenance and differentiation are summarized, especially transcriptional factors and extrinsic signals. Understanding these mechanisms is indispensable because they have potential clinical applications, chiefly the generation of specific retinal cells such as retinal ganglion cells to treat glaucoma and other optic neuropathy diseases.

Ma G, Duan Y, Huang X, Qian CX, Chee Y, Mukai S, Cui J, Samad A, Matsubara JA, Kazlauskas A, D'Amore PA, Gu S, Lei H. Prevention of Proliferative Vitreoretinopathy by Suppression of Phosphatidylinositol 5-Phosphate 4-Kinases. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2016;57(8):3935-43.Abstract

PURPOSE: Previous studies have shown that vitreous stimulates degradation of the tumor suppressor protein p53 and that knockdown of phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphate 4-kinases (PI5P4Kα and -β) abrogates proliferation of p53-deficient cells. The purpose of this study was to determine whether vitreous stimulated expression of PI5P4Kα and -β and whether suppression of PI5P4Kα and -β would inhibit vitreous-induced cellular responses and experimental proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR). METHODS: PI5P4Kα and -β encoded by PIP4K2A and 2B, respectively, in human ARPE-19 cells were knocked down by stably expressing short hairpin (sh)RNA directed at human PIP4K2A and -2B. In addition, we rescued expression of PI5P4Kα and -β by re-expressing mouse PIP4K2A and -2B in the PI5P4Kα and -β knocked-down ARPE-19 cells. Expression of PI5P4Kα and -β was determined by Western blot and immunofluorescence. The following cellular responses were monitored: cell proliferation, survival, migration, and contraction. Moreover, the cell potential of inducing PVR was examined in a rabbit model of PVR effected by intravitreal cell injection. RESULTS: We found that vitreous enhanced expression of PI5P4Kα and -β in RPE cells and that knocking down PI5P4Kα and -β abrogated vitreous-stimulated cell proliferation, survival, migration, and contraction. Re-expression of mouse PIP4Kα and -β in the human PI5P4Kα and -β knocked-down cells recovered the loss of vitreous-induced cell contraction. Importantly, suppression of PI5P4Kα and -β abrogated the pathogenesis of PVR induced by intravitreal cell injection in rabbits. Moreover, we revealed that expression of PI5P4Kα and -β was abundant in epiretinal membranes from PVR grade C patients. CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study indicate that PI5P4Kα and -β could be novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of PVR.

Tanimoto N, Akula JD, Fulton AB, Weber BHF, Seeliger MW. Differentiation of murine models of "negative ERG" by single and repetitive light stimuli. Doc Ophthalmol 2016;132(2):101-9.Abstract

PURPOSE: Marked attenuation of the single-flash electroretinographic (ERG) b-wave in the presence of a normal-amplitude or less-attenuated a-wave is commonly referred to as the "negative ERG." The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the disparate origins of the negative ERG in three murine models can be discriminated using flickering stimuli. METHODS: Three models were selected: (1) the Nyx (nob) mouse model of complete congenital stationary night blindness, (2) the oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) rat model of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), and (3) the Rs1 knockout (KO) mouse model of X-linked juvenile retinoschisis. Directly after a dark-adapted, single-flash ERG luminance series, a flicker ERG frequency series (0.5-30 Hz) was performed at a fixed luminance of 0.5 log cd s/m(2). This series includes frequency ranges that are dominated by activity in (A) the rod pathways (below 5 Hz), (B) the cone ON-pathway (5-15 Hz), and (C) the cone OFF-pathway (above 15 Hz). RESULTS: All three models produced markedly attenuated single-flash ERG b-waves. In the Nyx (nob) mouse, which features postsynaptic deficits in the ON-pathways, the a-wave was normal and flicker responses were attenuated in ranges A and B, but not C. The ROP rat is characterized by inner-retinal ischemia which putatively affects both ON- and OFF-bipolar cell activity; flicker responses were reduced in all ranges (A-C). Notably, the choroid supplies the photoreceptors and is thought to be relatively intact in OIR, an idea supported by the nearly normal a-wave. Finally, in the Rs1 KO mouse, which has documented abnormality of the photoreceptor-bipolar synapse affecting both ON- and OFF-pathways, the flicker responses were attenuated in all ranges (A-C). The a-wave was also attenuated, likely as a consequence to schisms in the photoreceptor layer. CONCLUSION: Consideration of both single-flash and flickering ERG responses can discriminate the functional pathology of the negative ERG in these animal models of human disease.