Advancements in the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa
Sunday, January 13 2013 | 00 h 00 min | News
Two experimental treatments for retinitis pigmentosa, based on stem cell grafts and gene therapy respectively, may soon move to clinical trials. Both have shown a capacity to improve the visual function in mice.
Dr. Stephen H. Tsang, researcher at Columbia University and ophthalmologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/CUMC described these findings as “very encouraging.” “We’ve never seen this type of improvement in retinal functions in mouse models of RP,” he says.
One of the treatments involves iPS stem cell grafts. These cells are capable of developing into any cell type and are not derived from embryos but from adult cells. They are injected into the retina and are assimilated into the pigmented epithelium. The benefits of this procedure lasted over the entire mice lifespan.
The other treatment was focussed on correcting genetic defects. The researchers injected healthy copies of a gene into the retina of mice. After six months, they found photoreceptor cells in the treated eye, which was able to see, but not in the other eye, which had lost vision.