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Inflammatory Autoimmune-mediated Complications in Inherited Retinal Diseases (IRDs): Characterization, Management and Potential Implications for IRD Trials and Studies

Date Posted: Thursday, October 06, 2022

Visiting Speaker, Alessandro Iannaccone, MD, MS, FARVO, Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of the Center for Retinal Degeneration and Ophthalmic Genetic Diseases at the Ophthalmology Department of Duke University School of Medicine presented a seminar on “Inflammatory autoimmune-mediated complications in inherited retinal diseases (IRDs): Characterization, management, and potential implications for IRD trials and studies”.

Dr. Iannaccone completed his medical and ophthalmology degree at the University La Sapienza, in Rome, Italy. He then completed a fellowship in retinal degeneration at UPenn followed by a fellowship on pediatric retinal and optic nerve diseases at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. In 2016, he was recruited to become the founding director of the Duke Center for Retinal Degenerations and Ophthalmic Genetic Diseases at the Duke University in Durham, NC, where he also is Professor of Ophthalmology, IRD Fellowship Program Director and Co-Director of the Retina Module of the Duke Eye Center Clinical Research Unit.

Dr. Iannaccone specializes in inherited and degenerative diseases of the retina and macula, including age-related macular degeneration, ophthalmic genetic diseases, autoimmune and paraneoplastic retinopathies and optic neuropathies, and other acquired conditions such as drug-induced retinal toxicity. His presentation was focused on the role of autoimmunity in IRD. His worked showed how inherited photoreceptor degenerative disease suffer often from a spontaneous inflammatory event that generally affects the optic nerve head region and is driven by an autoimmune component.

If treated properly this inflammatory can significantly improve vision in individuals that suffer from visual decline due to the underlying genetic condition. The inflammatory episodes go often undiagnosed as visual decline is expected in individual with IRD. Yet when treated they improve the life of patients. Finally, Dr. Iannaccone also explained why this underlying autoimmunity needs to be considered when administering novel gene therapy products to patients. The underlying autoimmune inflammation can often lead to a failure of the gene therapy to successfully restore vision in affected individuals.