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Nature. 1990 Sep 6;347(6288):83-6.

Photoreceptor degeneration in inherited retinal dystrophy delayed by basic fibroblast growth factor.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0730.


Numerous inherited retinal degenerations exist in animals and humans, in which photoreceptors inexplicably degenerate and disappear. In RCS rats with inherited retinal dystrophy, the mutant gene is expressed in the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell, and leads to the loss of photoreceptor cells. Photoreceptors can be rescued from degeneration if they are juxtaposed to wild-type RPE cells in experimental chimaeras or by the transplantation of RPE cells from normal rats. In both cases, the rescue effect extends beyond the immediate boundaries of the normal RPE cells, suggesting trophic action of a diffusible factor(s) from the normal RPE cells. We considered that the fibroblast growth factors, aFGF and bFGF, might have such a trophic role as they are found in the retina and RPE cells; bFGF acts as a neurotrophic agent after axonal injury in several regions of the central nervous system, and bFGF induces retinal regeneration from developing RPE cells. Here we report that subretinal injection of bFGF results in extensive rescue of photoreceptors in RCS rats for at least two months after the injection, and that intravitreal injection of bFGF results in even more widespread rescue, across almost the entire retina. The findings demonstrate for the first time that bFGF can act as a survival-promoting neurotrophic factor in a hereditary neuronal degeneration of the central nervous system.

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