Personalised medicine: developing gene therapies

OT  speaks to Professor Tara Moore about research that aims to develop a gene therapy for corneal dystrophy

Professor Tara Moore
Tara Moore, a professor of personalised medicine at Ulster University, is working on a project that aims to develop a gene therapy treatment for corneal dystrophy.

The research, which Professor Moore discussed at a Four Liveries guest lecture for the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers at Painters Hall in London last week (12 September), is a collaboration between the Ulster University and Avellino Labs in the US.

In gene editing, using CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), an enzyme that naturally occurs in bacteria, scientists can remove, alter and rewrite the mutated part of a person’s genetic make-up.

Speaking to OT, Professor Moore explained: “It is a new era of medicine where it’s much more personalised. It’s not one-drug-fits-all or one therapy fits everyone. It’s much more personalised to the person and to the exact reason that they have the disease they have.”

“The exact genetic mistake or mutation that causes [a person’s] particular disease can be targeted now very specifically. We are now equipped with a way to target that DNA that we never thought would be possible,” Professor Moore said.

Professor Moore and her team are applying CRISPR technologies to the eyes, specifically the front of the eye she explained. “It is difficult to deliver to. But if we can overcome that battle, we can hopefully have a gene therapy that will be successful,” she shared.

When discussing the future for the treatment, Professor Moore told OT: “I would like to think we would end up at a stage in personalised medicine where everyone would be pre-screened for whatever mutations that they contain that predispose them to a particular disease and we could treat people.”