Gene Therapy for Macular Degeneration

Gene therapy for macular degeneration is a new area of research for the treatment of AMD.

The National Institute of Health has several gene therapy clinical trials listed for the treatment of wet macular degeneration. These studies are being conducted in the United States and Australia at the time of this writing.

The first multicenter phase I clinical trial using gene therapy did show the safety of injecting a gene directly into the eye.

It showed that this macular degeneration therapy that works by inhibiting blood vessel growth was safe and well tolerated. There is some early evidence that it may stop or minimize the progression of "wet" macular degeneration.

The purpose of Phase I studies are to determine "the metabolism and pharmacologic actions of drugs in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and to gain early evidence of effectiveness."

J. Timothy Stout, M.D., co-principal investigator and associate professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine, said,

"This (phase I study) is an important first step, but years of research will be necessary to determine the long-term effects of this therapy and whether it will be a viable treatment for patients with AMD."

Genetic Retinal Diseases

At Emory Eye Center in Atlanta, Georgia, molecular biologist John Nickerson, is studying a protein, IRBP, that is responsible for the transportation of Vitamin A within the retina.

This transportation mechanism is essential for vision.

Genetic retinal diseases, such as macular degeneration, may be the result of defects in this protein.

Gene Transfer Agent

As of June 2012 a Phase I study is being conducted in the United states looking at gene therapy as a treatment for wet macular degeneration also called neovascular age related macular degeneration.

The name of the study is:

Safety and Tolerability Study of AAV2-sFLT01 in Patients With Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The clinical trial is looking at the safety and tolerability of an experimental gene transfer agent called AAV2-sFLT01.

Here is an explanation of the study from the NIH website:

"This experimental study drug uses a virus to transfer a gene (genetic code) into cells within the eye. The gene codes for a protein that is intended to diminish the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. The duration of the gene's effect is currently unknown, but might last for years."

More studies using gene therapy may become available in the near future.

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