An overview of Leber congenital amaurosis: a model to understand human retinal development

Surv Ophthalmol. 2004 Jul-Aug;49(4):379-98. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2004.04.003.


Leber congenital amaurosis is a congenital retinal dystrophy described almost 150 years ago. Today, Leber congenital amaurosis is proving instrumental in our understanding of the molecular events that determine normal and aberrant retinal development. Six genes have been shown to be mutated in Leber congenital amaurosis, and they participate in a wide variety of retinal pathways: retinoid metabolism (RPE65), phototransduction (GUCY2D), photoreceptor outer segment development (CRX), disk morphogenesis (RPGRIP1), zonula adherens formation (CRB1), and cell-cycle progression (AIPL1). Longitudinal studies of visual performance show that most Leber congenital amaurosis patients remain stable, some deteriorate, and rare cases exhibit improvements. Histopathological analyses reveal that most cases have extensive degenerative retinal changes, some have an entirely normal retinal architecture, whereas others have primitive, poorly developed retinas. Animal models of Leber congenital amaurosis have greatly added to understanding the impact of the genetic defects on retinal cell death, and response to rescue. Gene therapy for RPE65 deficient dogs partially restored sight, and provides the first real hope of treatment for this devastating blinding condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / congenital*
  • Blindness / genetics
  • Blindness / therapy
  • Cell Transplantation
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / growth & development*
  • Retinal Degeneration / congenital*
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy