Epilepsy drug could help treat retinitis pigmentosa, study finds

Aug 12, 2010 By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times

A small preliminary study has found that valproic acid - a drug already used to treat epileptic seizures, migraines and bipolar disorder - may halt or even reverse the loss of vision produced by retinitis pigmentosa, researchers said Thursday. A team from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worchester is now organizing a clinical trial to confirm its observations.

Retinitis pigmentosa, commonly known as RP, is a group of eye diseases marked by degeneration of the retina, the part of the eye that captures images, leading to loss of peripheral and night vision. At least 40 genes have been linked to the condition and the particular manifestation of the disease depends on which genes are involved. The only effective treatment involves high levels of vitamin A palmitate, which can slow the progression of the disorder but not halt it. About one in 4,000 people is affected by RP, with many going blind by the age of 40.

Virtually all forms of the disease are characterized by inflammation and cell death. Dr. Shalesh Kaushal, a professor of ophthalmology and at the university, reasoned that valproic acid, which is known to affect both conditions, might slow the progression of RP, and tissue culture experiments suggested that was the case.

Kaushal and his colleagues then treated seven patients with an early stage of RP with 500 to 750 milligrams of per day over the course of two to six months. The team reported in the British Journal of Ophthalmology that vision improved in five of the patients even though they were at a stage when normally progressed rapidly.

Kaushal is now organizing a three-year, $2.1 million clinical trial of the approach to test it against a placebo. The trial will be funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the National Neurovision Research Institute. The will be easier that they would be with an experimental compound because the safety of the drug has already been demonstrated.


Explore further: New treatment approved for rare form of hemophilia

3 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Antioxidants may slow vision loss

Jul 19, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've blocked the advance of retinal degeneration in mice with a form of retinitis pigmentosa by treating them with antioxidants.

Developing gene therapy to fight blindness

Jul 29, 2009

An international team of scientists and clinicians from the United States and Saudi Arabia are working to develop gene therapy for treating a rare, hereditary retinal disease. The therapy has been shown to restore lost vision ...

Recommended for you

WHO: Millions of Ebola vaccine doses ready in 2015

20 hours ago

The World Health Organization says millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines will start being tested in March.

Added benefit of vedolizumab is not proven

Oct 23, 2014

Vedolizumab (trade name Entyvio) has been approved since May 2014 for patients with moderately to severely active Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis. In an early benefit assessment pursuant to the Act on the Reform of the ...

Seaweed menace may yield new medicines

Oct 22, 2014

An invasive seaweed clogging up British coasts could be a blessing in disguise. University of Greenwich scientists have won a cash award to turn it into valuable compounds which can lead to new, life-saving drugs.

User comments : 0