Treatment of Leber Congenital Amaurosis Due to <em>RPE65</em> Mutations by Ocular Subretinal Injection of Adeno-Associated Virus Gene Vector: Short-Term Results of a Phase I Trial
Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a group of autosomal recessive blinding retinal diseases that are incurable. One molecular form is caused by mutations in the RPE65 (retinal pigment epithelium-specific 65-kDa) gene. A recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 2 (rAAV2) vector, altered to carry the human RPE65 gene (rAAV2-CB-hRPE65), restored vision in animal models with RPE65 deficiency. A clinical trial was designed to assess the safety of rAAV2-CB-hRPE65 in subjects with RPE65-LCA. Three young adults (ages 21–24 years) with RPE65-LCA received a uniocular subretinal injection of 5.96 × 10 vector genomes in 150 μl and were studied with follow-up examinations for 90 days. Ocular safety, the primary outcome, was assessed by clinical eye examination. Visual function was measured by visual acuity and dark-adapted full-field sensitivity testing (FST); central retinal structure was monitored by optical coherence tomography (OCT). Neither vector-related serious adverse events nor systemic toxicities were detected. Visual acuity was not significantly different from baseline; one patient showed retinal thinning at the fovea by OCT. All patients self-reported increased visual sensitivity in the study eye compared with their control eye, especially noticeable under reduced ambient light conditions. The dark-adapted FST results were compared between baseline and 30–90 days after treatment. For study eyes, sensitivity increases from mean baseline were highly significant (p < 0.001); whereas, for control eyes, sensitivity changes were not significant (p = 0.99). Comparisons are drawn between the present work and two other studies of ocular gene therapy for RPE65-LCA that were carried out contemporaneously and reported.