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Suprachoroidal and Subretinal Injections of AAV Using Transscleral Microneedles for Retinal Gene Delivery in Nonhuman Primates.


Retinal gene therapy using adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) is constrained by the mode of viral vector delivery. Intravitreal AAV injections are impeded by the internal limiting membrane barrier, while subretinal injections require invasive surgery and produce a limited region of therapeutic effect. In this study, we introduce a novel mode of ocular gene delivery in rhesus macaques using transscleral microneedles to inject AAV8 into the subretinal or suprachoroidal space, a potential space between the choroid and scleral wall of the eye. Using in vivo imaging, we found that suprachoroidal AAV8 produces diffuse, peripheral expression in retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, but it elicited local infiltration of inflammatory cells. Transscleral subretinal injection of AAV8 using microneedles leads to focal gene expression with transduction of RPE and photoreceptors, and minimal intraocular inflammation. In comparison, intravitreal AAV8 shows minimal transduction of retinal cells, but elicits greater systemic humoral immune responses. Our study introduces a novel mode of transscleral viral delivery that can be performed without vitreoretinal surgery, with focal or diffuse transgene expression patterns suitable for different applications. The decoupling of local and systemic immune responses reveals important insights into the immunological consequences of AAV delivery to different ocular compartments surrounding the blood-retinal barrier.

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