Feasibility of Direct Vitrectomy-Sparing Subretinal Injection for Gene Delivery in Large Animals

Curr Eye Res. 2024 Apr 26:1-9. doi: 10.1080/02713683.2024.2343335. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: To assess the safety and feasibility of direct vitrectomy-sparing subretinal injection for gene delivery in a large animal model.

Methods: The experimental Liběchov minipigs were used for subretinal delivery of a plasmid DNA vector (pS/MAR-CMV-copGFP) with cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter, green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter (copGFP) and a scaffold/matrix attachment region (S/MAR) sequence. The eyes were randomized to subretinal injection of the vector following pars plana vitrectomy (control group) or a direct injection without prior vitrectomy surgery (experimental group). Intra- and post-operative observations up to 30 days after surgery were compared.

Results: Six eyes of three mini-pigs underwent surgery for delivery into the subretinal space. Two eyes in the control group were operated with a classical approach (lens-sparing vitrectomy and posterior hyaloid detachment). The other four eyes in the experimental group were injected directly with a subretinal cannula without vitrectomy surgery. No adverse events, such as endophthalmitis, retinal detachment and intraocular pressure elevation were observed post-operatively. The eyes in the experimental group had both shorter surgical time and recovery while achieving the same surgical goal.

Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrates that successful subretinal delivery of gene therapy vectors is achievable using a direct injection without prior vitrectomy surgery.

Keywords: Subretinal injection; large animal; non-viral gene vector; pars plana vitrectomy; safety.