Retinal gene therapy is a rapidly growing field with numerous clinical trials underway, and route of delivery is a critical contributor to its success. Subretinal administration, which involves pars plana vitrectomy in the operating room, offers targeted delivery to retinal-pigment epithelium cells and photoreceptors. Due to the immune-privileged nature of the subretinal space, the risk of an immune reaction against viral capsid antigens is minimized, an advantage of subretinal administration in patients with preexisting neutralizing antibodies. Intravitreal administration, with fewer procedure-related complications, is challenged by potential immune response and incomplete vector penetration through the internal limiting membrane. However, novel vectors, optimized by "directed evolution" may address these issues. Nonsurgical in-office suprachoroidal gene delivery offers the potential for greater surface-area coverage of the posterior segment compared to focal subretinal injection, and is not hindered by the internal limiting membrane. However, the vector must pass through multiple layers to reach the targeted retinal layers, and there is a risk of immune response. This review highlights recent developments, challenges, and future opportunities associated with viral and nonviral suprachoroidal gene delivery for the treatment of chorioretinal diseases. While ocular tolerability and short-term effectiveness of suprachoroidal gene delivery have been demonstrated in preclinical models, durability of gene expression, long-term safety, potential systemic exposure, and effective delivery to the macula require further exploration. Although the safety and efficacy of suprachoroidal gene delivery are yet to be proven in clinical trials, further optimization could facilitate nonsurgical in-office suprachoroidal gene therapy.
Keywords: chorioretinal diseases; gene therapy; nanoparticles; suprachoroidal; viral vectors.