Proliferative retinopathies are the leading causes of blindness in Western societies. The development of new, more efficacious treatments that take advantage of recent advances in the fields of gene and cell therapy requires further investigations on the mechanisms underlying disease onset and progression, and adequate animal models that recapitulate the pathogenesis of human proliferative retinopathy and allow evaluation of the long-term therapeutic benefits that these therapies can offer. Unfortunately, most models of retinal neovascularization have short-term evolution and diabetic rodents show a very mild retinal phenotype, limited to non-proliferative changes, and do not develop proliferative retinopathy at all. Transgenic mice overexpressing Insulin-like Growth Factor-I (IGF-I) in the retina (TgIGF-I) constitute the only rodent model currently available that develops most of the retinal alterations observed in diabetic eyes, with a temporal evolution that resembles that of the human disease. TgIGF-I have retinal vascular alterations that progress as animals age from non-proliferative to proliferative disease, making these mice an excellent model of proliferative retinopathy that, due to its slow progression, allows long-term evaluation of novel antiangiogenic therapies. At the molecular level, transgenic retinas recapitulate a variety of changes that are also observed in diabetic retinas, which reinforces the validity of this model. In addition to vascular and glial alterations, Tg-IGF-I mice show progressive neurodegeneration that leads to blindness in old animals. Thus, TgIGF-I are a useful model for testing the long-term efficacy and safety of innovative antiangiogenic, glial-modulating and neuroprotective therapies for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy and other retinal proliferative disorders.
- AAV vectors