In an interview with WYPL-FM’s (Memphis, TN) radio show Eye on Vision, Curtis Brandt, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, discussed the research of experimental gene transfer techniques to improve glaucoma treatment that he and Paul Kaufman, MD, perform here at the University of Wisconsin.
Glaucoma is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness and involves various parts of the eye. Dr. Brandt said there is significant evidence that glaucoma is a multifactorial disease, thus it is likely the result of a combination of different genes people can inherit.
“That makes it even harder to pick some sort of disease for gene delivery strategy when you can have a little tiny contribution from ten different genes that eventually combine and lead to the disease,” Dr. Brandt said.
Rather than identifying and using a better copy of a particular gene, Dr. Brandt and Dr. Kaufman’s strategy is to go after the physiology of the system. “In other words, we can find or identify genes that would act on those cells to increase the fluid flow without necessarily actually replacing a gene that happens to have a problem with it or a defect,” Dr. Brandt said.
Dr. Brandt and Dr. Kaufman have collaborated for many years to develop gene delivery methods. Their goal is to deliver a gene into the tissues and get a therapeutic effect that will last for a long time. This way, patients will not have to constantly use eye drops every day, or even multiple times a day.
“We’re hoping we can get away from this, where the patient has to keep dosing themselves,” Brandt said.
Dr. Brandt and Dr. Kaufman have made great progress on this research, and it could eventually move into the pre-drug phase and become part of a clinical trial. This research is funded by the Bright Focus Foundation, the National Eye Institute and others.