Retinitis Pigmentosa Research

Retinitis pigmentosa research focuses on novel approaches to detect, slow and ultimately treat the disease.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an eye disease that causes damage to the retina, resulting in severe visual impairment and often blindness. Retinitis pigmentosa is among the most common inherited degenerative retinal diseases, and it is characterized by the progressive loss of the retinal photoreceptors that convert the light energy entering the eye into a neural signal. This progressive condition can result from any one of a number of gene mutations that are primarily inherited in a dominant manner. Consequently, the onset, progression and nature of visual dysfunction can vary. The most common symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa are loss of night vision and tunnel vision (loss of peripheral visual field). However, many other symptoms, including loss of central vision, have been observed.

There is no cure for retinitis pigmentosa, and currently there is no effective standard treatment for this condition. However visual prosthetic approaches to disease treatment hold promise. Retinitis pigmentosa research focuses on:

  • Methods to detect the disease earlier
  • Therapies to slow its progression
  • The further development of visual prosthetic technology

Visual electrophysiology

Documentation of progressive loss in photoreceptor function by visual electrophysiology is critical for the detection and accurate diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa. The electrical responses of the eye can expose retinal disease in its early stages, before a patient may even notice symptoms. For this reason, our advanced visual electrophysiology testing holds particular promise for retinitis pigmentosa patients, for the appropriate care of these patients. Furthermore, visual electrophysiology tests provide invaluable tools for further investigating the pathophysiological basis of this complex disease.

Retinitis pigmentosa drug research

Our recent retinitis pigmentosa drug research focuses on studies that compare retinitis pigmentosa drug therapies to test their effectiveness in slowing the progression of the disease. Other studies focus on retinitis pigmentosa drug delivery systems and the safety of such systems.

Visual prosthesis

The Department of Ophthalmology is a leader in facilitating work on visual prosthesis through its world congress, The Eye and The Chip. This program, held in even years, seeks to marry the most recent advances in nanoelectronics and neurobiology to provide artificial vision to many people who are now blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa and other eye conditions, diseases and injuries.

Treatment and resources for retinitis pigmentosa patients

Although there is currently no effective standard treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, Henry Ford retinal specialists can help patients explore all available options to help slow the progression of the disease, including any related retinitis pigmentosa research clinical trials, if eligible. In addition, our retinal specialists work closely with the Henry Ford Center for Vision Rehabilitation and Research and the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, connecting retinitis pigmentosa patients with low-vision specialists who can help patients adapt to life with vision loss.