MacDonald Lab-Alberta Ocular Gene Therapy Team

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
What the facility does

Clinical translational laboratory targeting the assessment and development of gene therapies to prevent blindness

Areas of expertise

The Alberta Ocular Gene Therapy Team strives to place Albertan clinicians and researchers at the forefront of ocular gene therapy trials for the prevention of blindness.

The Team is conducting novel research into gene therapy for a range of diseases of the retina and the cornea employing cell and animal models of human disease. The Team is conducting Canada’s first gene therapy clinical trial for choroideremia, a rare, inherited disease that causes degeneration of the retina. Gene therapy uses a viral vector to insert a working copy of the gene into cells to produce an essential, but missing protein. In choroideremia, that protein is part of the energy pathway of the cell and without it, the cells die. The virus, an adeno-associated virus (AAV), has been used in other gene therapy clinical trials and has been shown to be safe for use in the eye.

Our main research focus is inherited retinal dystrophies. We have been working to develop novel therapeutic on the cellular level, and carrying out phase 1 of 2 clinical trials for our patients with inherited retinal disease.

Research services

Our clinical laboratory has the imaging capabilities to assess a range of ophthalmic disorders, particularly those that result in vision loss, such as macular degeneration.

Sectors of application
  • Healthcare and social services



MAIA Microperimeter

Macular Integrity Assessment (MAIA). Microperimetry creates a "retinal sensitivity map" of the quantity of light perceived in specific parts of the retina. It is a type of examination to test retinal function.

Bioptigen Handheld OCT (animal)

Optical coherence tomography (OCT). Anatomic representation of retina in zebrafish and mice.

Phoenix MICRON animal fundus camera 

Retinal camera that photographs the back of the eye (Fundus photography).