New Retinitis Pigmentosa Treatment Explored
In the quest for effective treatments of retinitis pigmentosa, a research team recently completed a study in which they were able to restore some visual ability to mice who had inherited advanced retinal degeneration. Based on the results of this study, the authors noted that their approach “warrants consideration as a method for restoring vision in advanced retinal degeneration.”
Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of inherited conditions in which individuals experience progressive peripheral vision loss and problems with night vision and eventual loss of central vision. Vision loss is associated with the degeneration of the light receptors (cones and rods) in the retina.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a major cause of blindness around the world. It affects about one of every 4,000 people and is slightly more prevalent among people ages 45 to 64 (1 in 3,195). Currently there is no known cure, but researchers have been exploring a number of avenues (see Related Articles below).
New retinitis pigmentosa study
In the new study, a team of scientists at the University of Manchester conducted a study in which they treated blind mice with a human protein called rod opsin. This protein, which is light sensitive, was placed into the undamaged cells of the animals’ retina, which allowed them to turn into cells called photoreceptors (the rods and cones), which enable sight.
According to the researchers, the treated mice gained an ability to distinguish flickering light and spatial patterns. The use of a human protein is better than previous attempts to use a non-human protein, noted the study’s leader, Rob Lucas, GSK Professor of Neuroscience, because it is easy to produce and is less damaging.
Overall, the scientists concluded that “Given the inherent advantages in employing a human protein, the simplicity of this intervention, and the quality of vision restored, we suggest that rod opsin merits consideration as an optogenetic actuator for treating patients with advanced retinal degeneration.” In other words, this treatment approach should be explored further as a possible treatment option for people who have retinitis pigmentosa.
Related Articles: Artificial retina restores vision in retinitis pigmentosa
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Cehajic-Kapetanovic J et al. Restoration of vision with ectopic expression of human rod opsin. Current Biology 2015 Aug 17; 25(16): 2111-22