by Virginia Haurigot, Pilar Villacampa, Albert Ribera, Assumpcio Bosch, David Ramos, Jesus Ruberte, Fatima Bosch
Neovascularization associated with diabetic retinopathy (DR) and other ocular disorders is a leading cause of visual impairment and adult-onset blindness. Currently available treatments are merely palliative and offer temporary solutions. Here, we tested the efficacy of antiangiogenic gene transfer in an animal model that mimics the chronic progression of human DR. Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors of serotype 2 coding for antiangiogenic Pigment Epithelium Derived Factor (PEDF) were injected in the vitreous of a 1.5 month-old transgenic model of retinopathy that develops progressive neovascularization. A single intravitreal injection led to long-term production of PEDF and to a striking inhibition of intravitreal neovascularization, normalization of retinal capillary density, and prevention of retinal detachment. This was parallel to a reduction in the intraocular levels of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF). Normalization of VEGF was consistent with a downregulation of downstream effectors of angiogenesis, such as the activity of Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMP) 2 and 9 and the content of Connective Tissue Growth Factor (CTGF). These results demonstrate long-term efficacy of AAV-mediated PEDF overexpression in counteracting retinal neovascularization in a relevant animal model, and provides evidence towards the use of this strategy to treat angiogenesis in DR and other chronic proliferative retinal disorders.