Management of hereditary retinal degenerations: present status and future directions

Surv Ophthalmol. 1999 Mar-Apr;43(5):427-44. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6257(99)00006-5.


Research on hereditary retinal degenerations has considerably improved our understanding of these disorders, although much remains to be learned about the exact mechanism involved in the pathogenesis. The advent of recombinant DNA technology will refine diagnostic capabilities, which have so far been based on the manifestations of the disease to localization of the molecular defects. The correlation of the molecular defects with the phenotype of the disease will result in better prognostic counseling for patients. In certain forms of retinitis pigmentosa, such as Refsum disease, gyrate atrophy of the choroid and retina, and abetalipoproteinemia, exact biochemical defects have been identified and specific treatments have been applied with some success. In other forms of retinitis pigmentosa, various investigations have suggested the possibilities of arresting the progress of degeneration by means such as the use of growth factors and controlling apoptosis. Efforts to alter the expression of the mutated gene or to introduce a normal gene into the genome are in their infancy, but results are encouraging. Vitamin A has been tried in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, and the results demonstrate statistically significant beneficial effects of this vitamin, suggesting that the course of the disease can be decelerated to some extent. Another interesting research area with potential for therapeutic application is the replacement of the retinal pigment epithelium or the degenerated neural retina by transplantation of the respective cell types. Clinical trials are being conducted both with retinal pigment epithelium and neuroretinal transplants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Diet
  • Forecasting
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Growth Substances / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / transplantation
  • Research / trends
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy*


  • Antioxidants
  • Growth Substances