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Curr Mol Med. 2012 Jun;12(5):598-612.

Neuroprotective strategies for the treatment of inherited photoreceptor degeneration.

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Tubingen University, Institute for Ophthalmic Research, Division of Experimental Ophthalmology, Cell Death Mechanisms Group, Rontgenweg 11, 72076 Tubingen, Germany.


Photoreceptor degeneration is the hallmark of several groups of inherited neurodegenerative diseases causing blindness in humans. These diseases are a major cause of visual handicap and to date no satisfactory treatment is available. Here, we briefly review different approaches for the treatment of photoreceptor degeneration, to then focus on neuroprotection. Up to date, translation of experimental neuroprotection into a clinical setting has faced major obstacles, which are in part due to an incomplete understanding of the regulation of pro-survival as well as neurodegenerative mechanisms. Previous approaches were often based on the hypothesis that photoreceptor cell death was governed by a single, apoptotic cell death mechanism. This perception has turned out too simple as recent work has demonstrated that photoreceptor cell death is governed by non-apoptotic mechanisms as well. Moreover, there is evidence, that several different destructive processes are executed in parallel. Briefly reviewing the complexity of degenerative mechanisms, this review discusses relevant pathways, options to target signaling cascades, final common denominators of cell death, and the interplay of events executing cell death. In particular, we focus on cGMP-signaling, epigenetic and proteolytic processes and the corresponding enzymatic activities that were recently shown to be causally related to retinal degeneration. Finally, we illustrate how a better understanding of destructive mechanisms may enable identification and validation of novel targets for neuroprotection, and allow development of next generation neuroprotective treatments as well as combination therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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