Successful gene therapy in older Rpe65­deficient dogs following subretinal injection of an adeno­associated vector expressing RPE65

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Young Rpe65-deficient dogs have been used as a model for human RPE65 Leber congenital amaurosis (RPE65-LCA) in proof-of-concept trials of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) gene therapy. However, there are relatively few reports of the outcome of rAAV gene therapy in Rpe65-deficient dogs older than 2 years of age. The purpose of this study was to investigate the success of this therapy in older Rpe65-deficient dogs. Thirteen eyes were treated in dogs between 2 and 6 years old. An rAAV2 vector expressing the human RPE65 cDNA driven by the human RPE65 promoter was delivered by subretinal injection. Twelve of the 13 eyes had improved retinal function as assessed by electroretinography, and all showed improvement in vision at low lighting intensities. Histologic examination of five of the eyes was performed but found no correlation between electroretinogram (ERG) rescue and numbers of remaining photoreceptors. We conclude that functional rescue is still possible in older dogs and that the use of older Rpe65-deficient dogs, rather than young Rpe65-deficient dogs that have very little loss of photoreceptors, more accurately models the situation when treating human RPE65-LCA patients.