Tag Archive for: Usher 2C

PATIENT AND RESEARCHER: A DYNAMIC DUO ONCE AGAIN CYCLING TOGETHER

BUT NOW ON A RACING TANDEM WITH GEARS

In a remarkable collaboration between patients with Usher syndrome and researchers from Radboudumc, a crucial next step is made possible in the research towards a treatment for Usher syndrome type 2C (USH2C).

In 2020, researchers and patients embarked on a joint journey in the research on USH2C. The research, funded by Stichting Ushersyndroom (Dutch Usher Syndrome Foundation) with co-financing from L.S.B.S. and CUREUsher, has faced some setbacks, including delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the research has experienced some delays, the initial results appear to be very promising. Researchers and patients are striving to accelerate this crucial and innovative research. Patients worldwide are uniting to raise funds for the Usher Syndrome Foundation so that a follow-up to this study can be made possible.

Bike ride
In their sporty attire, researcher Merel Stemerdink, cheerfully acting as a co-pilot along with patient (and treasurer of Stichting Ushersyndroom Rick Brouwer as the stoker, cycled to the Railway Museum during the Usher Awareness Day last summer. They cycled over 75 kilometers from Arnhem to Utrecht. Smoothly, focused, and at a fast pace! Merel regularly races in her free time, and Rick is a trained triathlete.

In rare diseases such as Usher syndrome, the contact between doctors, researchers, and patients is crucial. Patients, parents, and loved ones drive scientific research towards a treatment by collecting donations and closely consulting with doctors and researchers. By working together, a treatment for progressive deaf-blindness comes into view more quickly.

Accelerating as a duo on the tandem
Patients with Usher syndrome and researchers from Radboudumc are once again putting the tandem into motion for scientific research towards a treatment for Usher syndrome type 2C. Currently, various treatment strategies, including the USH2C minigenes, are being tested in a USH2C zebrafish model developed specifically for the research. The initial results, which are expected to be announced by the end of 2024, are very promising. Therefore, efforts are being made to raise funds to continue this research beyond 2025.

Promising research
USH2C is caused by mutations in the ADGRV1 gene, and these errors in the gene lead to a progressive form of deaf-blindness. One of the promising treatment strategies for inherited blindness is ‘gene augmentation,’ where a healthy copy of the involved gene is delivered to the eye using a viral vector. What makes the development of this therapy challenging is that the ADGRV1 gene is incredibly large: so large that it cannot be packaged into the viral vector. Therefore, artificially shortened versions of the ADGRV1 gene have been created – the ADGRV1 (USH2C) minigenes. These minigenes fit into a viral vector, and currently, it is being investigated using the USH2C zebrafish model whether these mini-genes are actually able to take over the function of the defective ADGRV1 gene.

Another treatment strategy, called ‘exon skipping,’ allows specific exons (the specific regions of the ADGRV1 gene where mutations are located) to be skipped. In theory, this can restore the normal function of the gene. Although this is currently targeted at a smaller group of patients, the initial results in zebrafish provide hope for a more personalized approach to treatment.

Watch here the presentation ‘USH2C Research’ by Merel Stemerdink. With subtitles in Dutch and English.

Researchers and patients
A group of Americans contacted Rick Brouwer via the private Facebook group Usher 2C and called the researchers at Radboudumc. Soon, a symbiosis developed between the patients from the USA and the researchers at Radboudumc. Strong involvement between researchers and patients increases motivation and inspiration to further advance and accelerate current research.

Follow-up Study
Although the analyses and outcomes have yet to be published, the initial results are very promising. A follow-up study to also test the strategies on human organoids is being designed and will be submitted for advice to the Scientific Advisory Board of Stichting Ushersydroom later this year.

Cindy Boer (member of the Scientific Advisory Board and PostDoc Osteoarthritis, genetics, microbiomics & omics at ErasmusUMC and diagnosed with Usher syndrome herself): “In an earlier advice, we proposed an addition to the research. We want a translation to be made to humans using human skin cells. This allows you to investigate whether the minigenes behave well in human cells and whether the proteins fold correctly. This can sometimes be different from animal models and therefore provides a good indication of whether gene therapy will work in humans.”

Future Plans
The research team is also looking towards the future with a postdoc project proposal scheduled for 2025. While the treatment strategies are currently being evaluated in the zebrafish model, the future project will translate these findings to humans. The project will focus on evaluating the treatment strategies in human cells and retinal organoids. The success of these approaches could lead to expansion to other forms of retinal degeneration, and possibly further refinement of ongoing research into new treatments for Retinitis Pigmentosa caused by mutations in the USH2A and USH2C genes.

Jack from the USA is also cycling along!

Taking action together to accelerate research
This time, a racing tandem with both a patient and a researcher on board. Patients from Sweden are now also involved, and a global crowdfunding campaign has been launched. With great confidence in the process propelling them forward and bringing a treatment for Usher syndrome closer than ever before. The funds collected are managed by Stichting Ushersyndroom and are earmarked for further USH2C research. The involvement of patients, both locally and globally, is propelling research into USH2C to new heights. These global efforts to raise donations are conducted through the FundMe platform: ‘Fund a Cure for Usher Syndrome 2C’.

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