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Development of retinal atrophy after subretinal gene therapy with voretigene neparvovec


Background/aims Voretigene neparvovec (VN) is the first and only subretinal gene therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency. Real-world application has started in 2018 in patients with vision impairment due to biallelic retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) 65 mutation-associated inherited retinal degenerations. Herein, we evaluated the development of retinal atrophy within in a single-centre patient cohort treated with VN.

Methods 13 eyes of eight patients treated with VN were retrospectively analysed for areas of retinal atrophy over a period of 6–24 months following surgery. Ultrawide field images were used to measure the area of atrophy. Fundus autofluorescence imaging is presented as an instrument for early detection of signs of retinal atrophy in these patients.

Results Atrophic changes beyond the retinotomy site were observed in all eyes. Areas of atrophy developed within the area of detachment (bleb) in all eight patients and outside the bleb in three patients. Changes in autofluorescence preceded the development of retinal atrophy and were already evident 2 weeks after surgery in the majority of patients. The areas of atrophy increase with time and progression continued over year 1. Functional outcomes remained stable (VA, FST, visual field).

Conclusion Subretinal injection of VN can lead to RPE atrophy with consequent photoreceptor loss in and outside of the bleb area. Fundus autofluorescence is an important tool to monitor atrophic changes in patients after gene therapy. Interestingly, while areas of atrophy also included central areas, the functional benefits of the treatment did not appear to be affected and remained stable.

  • Drugs
  • Degeneration
  • Retina
  • Treatment Surgery

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. The authors confirm that the most relevant data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article and its supplementary materials. Additional data supporting the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, [M.D. Fischer], upon reasonable request.

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