CHICAGO—Prevent Blindness has declared the second annual “Inherited Retinal Disease (IRD) Genetic Testing Week” for May 16-22, 2021. As part of this initiative, Prevent Blindness will be posting a series of educational graphics on its social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In addition, Prevent Blindness provides a dedicated webpage with detailed information on causes, risk factors, therapy and research options, financial assistance services and more for IRDs. There is also a free downloadable IRD fact sheet. All these resources are available on the Prevent Blindness website.

The most common types of IRDs include Retinitis Pigmentosa, Choroideremia, Stargardt Disease, Cone-rod Dystrophy and Leber Congenital Amaurosis. Identifying the genetic cause of disease is an important part of care for patients with IRDs, and having the genetic diagnosis may help to identify potential treatment options for patients, inform them about the potential risk of disease to other family members, and may identify the
potential risk to other organs in the patient’s body that can be affected. Genetic testing may also identify children who are at risk of other health problems and who could benefit from early diagnosis and therapy.

The American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy reports that IRD patients are especially strong candidates for gene therapy treatments due to the retina’s unique physical makeup. Firstly, the eye is small compared to other organs in the body, and easy to access for treatment. The eye is also an ideal location for gene therapy because it is considered “immune privileged,” and the body’s normal immune response is not as active, so anything implanted into the eye is less likely to be rejected.

Spark Therapeutics, a fully integrated company dedicated to challenging the inevitability of genetic disease, is again partnering with Prevent Blindness in support of May’s IRD Genetic Testing Week. Spark offers educational resources on IRDs and genetic testing through the Eye Want 2 Know website, and a free gene testing initiative, ID YOUR IRD, to appropriate U.S. residents.

Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness said, “By encouraging the public to educate themselves about IRDs and the positive impact that genetic testing may have on their health, we hope to save sight for patients in the near term and throughout their lives. We thank Spark Therapeutics for their continued support of our important work during IRD Genetic Testing Week.”