Future Of Gene Therapy For Corneal Diseases Causing Blindness

Cornea is an important part of the eye required for clear vision. Even microscopic changes in cornea can cause moderate to severe reduction in vision. These changes may be the result of various pathological processes, for instance infection, injury, metabolic disorders and degenerative changes.

Depending on the cause, medical and surgical treatments including corneal transplantation and keratoprosthesis surgeries are used to achieve optimal vision.

But we should probably expect much more. According to Dr. Stephen Tuft, MD FRCOphth, gene-based therapies like gene silencing technology, inhibition of corneal vascularisation after corneal transplantation and alteration of immunologic properties of the donor corneal tissue are key areas which will change how effective the diagnosis and treatment of corneal conditions will be in the next few years:

The most recent audit of UK Transplant reported that 50.7% of grafts performed 2015 to 2016 were for inherited corneal disease. Identification of the causative genes will open doors to earlier diagnosis and intervention, as well as novel treatments.

The clinical introduction of gene silencing technologies to suppress the formation of aberrant cell products in a likely development within the next decade. Gene-based approaches to inhibit corneal vascularisation – a major risk for transplant rejection – and to alter the immunogenicity of donor corneal tissue may expand the options for individual with disease that currently precludes the use of a transplant.

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