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Curr Genomics. 2011 Jun;12(4):276-84. doi: 10.2174/138920211795860062.

Therapeutic challenges to retinitis pigmentosa: from neuroprotection to gene therapy.

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St. Paul's Eye Unit, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, Liverpool, UK.


Syndromic retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the result of several mutations expressed in rod photoreceptors, over 40 of which have so far been identified. Enormous efforts are being made to relate the advances in unraveling the patho-physiological mechanisms to therapeutic approaches in animal models, and eventually in clinical trials on humans. This review summarizes briefly the current clinical management of RP and focuses on the new exciting treatment possibilities. To date, there is no approved therapy able to stop the evolution of RP or restore vision. The current management includes an attempt at slowing down the degenerative process by vitamin supplementation, trying to treat ocular complications and to provide psychological support to blind patients. Novel therapeutic may be tailored dependant on the stage of the disease and can be divided in three groups. In the early stages, when there are surviving photoreceptors, the first approach would be to try to halt the degeneration by correction of the underlying biochemical abnormality in the visual cycle using gene therapy or pharmacological treatment. A second approach aims to cope with photoreceptor cell death using neurotrophic growth factors or anti-apoptotic factors, reducing the production of retino-toxic molecules, and limiting oxidative damage. In advanced stages, when there are few or no functional photoreceptors, strategies that may benefit include retinal transplantation, electronic retinal implants or a newly described optogenetic technique using a light-activated channel to genetically resensitize remnant cone-photoreceptor cells.


Gene therapy; neuroprotection; retinal prosthesis; retinal transplant; retinitis pigmentosa; treatment.

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