We discuss how an imperfect visual cycle results in the formation of vitamin A dimers, thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of various retinal diseases, and summarize how slowing vitamin A dimerization has been a therapeutic target of interest to prevent blindness. To elucidate the molecular mechanism of vitamin A dimerization, an alternative form of vitamin A, one that forms dimers more slowly yet maneuvers effortlessly through the visual cycle, was developed. Such a vitamin A, reinforced with deuterium (C20-D3-vitamin A), can be used as a non-disruptive tool to understand the contribution of vitamin A dimers to vision loss. Eventually, C20-D3-vitamin A could become a disease-modifying therapy to slow or stop vision loss associated with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Stargardt disease and retinal diseases marked by such vitamin A dimers. Human clinical trials of C20-D3-vitamin A (ALK-001) are underway.
Keywords: A2E; ABCA4; ALK-001; AMD; Age-related macular degeneration; Bisretinoids; C20-D3-vitamin A; Lipofuscin; Retinal dystrophies; Retinaldehyde; Stargardt; Visual cycle; Vitamin A; Vitamin A dimer.