PublicationsThe CRB1 Complex: Following the Trail of Crumbs to a Feasible Gene Therapy Strategy
Once considered science fiction, gene therapy is rapidly becoming scientific reality, targeting a growing number of the approximately 250 genes linked to hereditary retinal disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and Leber’s congenital amaurosis. Powerful new technologies have emerged, leading to the development of humanized models for testing and screening these therapies, bringing us closer to the goal of personalized medicine. These tools include the ability to differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to create a “retina-in-a-dish” model and the self-formed ectodermal autonomous multi-zone, which can mimic whole eye development. In addition, highly specific gene-editing tools are now available, including the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the recently developed homology-independent targeted integration approach, which allows gene editing in non-dividing cells. Variants in the CRB1 gene have long been associated with retinopathies, and more recently the CRB2 gene has also been shown to have possible clinical relevance with respect to retinopathies. In this review, we discuss the role of the CRB protein complex in patients with retinopathy. In addition, we discuss new opportunities provided by stem cells and gene-editing tools, and we provide insight into how the retinal therapeutic pipeline can be improved. Finally, we discuss the current state of adeno-associated virus-mediated gene therapy and how it can be applied to treat retinopathies associated with mutations in CRB1.