While the most common standard therapy for RP has been pharmacologic treatments under medical supervision with a vitamin A palmitate supplement there is some controversy as to the success of this therapy. Some RP patients have used docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in fish to slow the progression of the disease. Researchers have used various mouse models to investigate gene therapy to replace damaged or defect proteins in the retina and these studies have shown promising results. However, work is still ongoing with regards to using gene replacement treatments in humans.
Another area of promising research is the use of stem cells that are introduced into the eye to restore or replace the dying retinal cells. This exciting work is ongoing at a number of institutions throughout the world, including Dr. Henry Klassen at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, a DEF supported stem cell researcher.
Finally, the use of retinal prosthesis (Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.) has received considerable attention for RP patients. This system uses a combination of an implant along with a mini camera mounted to glasses that processes electronic signals which are then transmitted to the retina and optic nerve. Clinical studies are underway in Europe and the United States for these electronic systems. To learn more about ongoing clinical trials for retinitis pigmentosa patients go to www.ClinicalTrials.gov.