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Abstract

Inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs) are a large and heterogeneous group of degenerative diseases caused by mutations in various genes. Given the favorable anatomical and immunological characteristics of the eye, gene therapy holds great potential for their treatment. Our goal is to validate the preservation of visual functions by viral-free homology directed repair (HDR) in an autosomal recessive loss of function mutation. We used a tailored gene editing system based on clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) to prevent retinal photoreceptor death in the retinal degeneration 10 (Rd10) mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. We tested the gene editing tool in vitro and then used in vivo subretinal electroporation to deliver it to one of the retinas of mouse pups at different stages of photoreceptor differentiation. Three months after gene editing, the treated eye exhibited a higher visual acuity compared to the untreated eye. Moreover, we observed preservation of light-evoked responses both in explanted retinas and in the visual cortex of treated animals. Our study validates a CRISPR/Cas9-based therapy as a valuable new approach for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa caused by autosomal recessive loss-of-function point mutations.

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