The term congenital refers to a condition present from birth (not acquired) and amaurosis refers to a loss of vision not associated with a lesion. However, beyond these general descriptions, the presentation of LCA can vary, because it is associated with multiple genes.
One form of LCA, patients with LCA2 bearing a mutation in the RPE65 gene, has been successfully treated by gene therapy in clinical trials. The results of three early clinical trials were published in 2008 demonstrating the safety and efficacy of adeno-associated virus to restore vision in LCA patients. In all three clinical trials, patients recovered functional vision without apparent side-effects. These studies, which used adeno-associated virus, have spawned a number of new studies investigating gene therapy for human retinal disease.
The results of a phase 1 trial conducted, by the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and published in 2009, showed sustained improvement in 12 subjects (ages 8 to 44) with RPE65-associated LCA after treatment with AAV2-hRPE65v2, a gene replacement therapy. Early intervention was associated with better results. In that study patients were excluded based on the presence of particular antibodies to the vector AAV2 and treatment was only administered to one eye as a precaution. A 2010 study testing the effect of administration of AAV2-hRPE65v2 in both eyes in animals with antibodies present suggested that immune responses may not complicate use of the treatment in both eyes.
Eye Surgeon Dr. Al Maguire and gene therapy expert Dr. Jean Bennett developed the technique used by the Children's Hospital.
Dr. Sue Semple-Rowland at the University of Florida has recently restored sight in an avian model using gene therapy.
In the episode The Blackout in the Blizzard (season 6, episode 16) of the television drama Bones, Dr. Jack Hodgins and his pregnant wife Angela Montenegro, who is an LCA carrier, have to wait during a citywide blackout for Hodgins's genetic test results, to see if he is also an LCA carrier. He does indeed turn out to be a carrier, giving their unborn child a 25% chance of having LCA.
In the television series ER (season 14, episode 12 named "Believe the Unseen") Dr. Abby Lockhart diagnoses a young foster girl with Leber's congenital amaurosis. The girl to this point hid her condition from her foster families. The episode contains some information about symptoms, clinical diagnosis and mentions gene replacement therapy and clinical trials as hope for help in managing the condition.
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