Current and emerging treatments for albinism

Surv Ophthalmol. 2021 Mar-Apr;66(2):362-377. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2020.10.007. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


Albinism is a group of rare inherited disorders arising from impairment of melanin biosynthesis. The reduction of melanin synthesis leads to hypopigmentation of the skin and eyes. A wide range of ophthalmic manifestations arise from albinism, including reduction of visual acuity, nystagmus, strabismus, iris translucency, foveal hypoplasia, fundus hypopigmentation, and abnormal decussation of retinal ganglion cell axons at the optic chiasm. Currently, albinism is incurable, and treatment aims either surgically or pharmacologically to optimize vision and protect the skin; however, novel therapies that aim to directly address the molecular errors of albinism, such as l-dihydroxyphenylalanine and nitisinone, are being developed and have entered human trials though with limited success. Experimental gene-based strategies for editing the genetic errors in albinism have also met early success in animal models. The emergence of these new therapeutic modalities represents a new era in the management of albinism. We focus on the known genetic subtypes, clinical assessment, and existing and emerging therapeutic options for the nonsyndromic forms of albinism.

Keywords: OA; OCA; abnormal head posture; albinism; gene therapy; glare; l-DOPA; nitisinone; nystagmus; skin protection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Albinism, Oculocutaneous* / genetics
  • Albinism, Oculocutaneous* / therapy
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic*
  • Retina
  • Vision Disorders
  • Visual Acuity