A “Novel” Treatment for Blindness May Fight a Pandemic
“Novel” is a term used frequently in the news today to refer to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Its definition is broader than just “new” and includes “unique”. Interestingly, as the world seeks a vaccine for the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus, the answer may lie in a gene therapy that was unique itself just a few years ago. An essential element of that gene therapy is a harmless virus known as the adeno-associated virus (AAV).
Two Doctors –
The technology for use of AAV can be traced back to the physician and molecular genetics team of Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, and her husband, ophthalmologist Albert Maguire, MD. Their work led to the FDA approval in 2017 of the first gene therapy treatment, and possible cure, for blindness due to a specific inherited retinal disease. Specifically, the AAV serves as a vector (or carrier) to deliver the gene therapy where it is needed.
Fast Track –
Because AAV already has FDA approval for use in retinal gene therapy, it may help place it on the fast-track as a COVID vaccine (AAVCOVID). Some experts believe this advantage could help the vaccine end the pandemic in record time. Still, an AAV-based vaccine has never been used in humans, and AAVCOVID must still undergo testing before human trials can begin.
Eye Care –
Hope is on the horizon for a vaccine for coronavirus, and it is exciting (exciting for those of us in the world of eye care!) that something which began as ophthalmic research to prevent blindness may limit the spread of a viral pandemic!