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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 331-335

Metabolic rescue of cone photoreceptors in retinitis pigmentosa

1 Department of Ophthalmology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
2 Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Louisville Health Sciences Center, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
3 Department of Medicine, University of Louisville Health Sciences Center, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Henry J Kaplan
44 Kingsbury Place, Saint Louis 63112, Missouri
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tjo.tjo_46_21

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Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) encompasses a group of inherited retinal dystrophies characterized by the primary degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptors. It is a leading cause of visual disability, with an incidence of ~1 in 7000 persons. Although most RP is nonsyndromic, 20%–30% of patients with RP also have an associated nonocular condition. The gene mutations responsible for RP occur overwhelmingly in rod photoreceptors. Visual loss frequently begins with night blindness in adolescence, followed by concentric visual field loss, reflecting the principal dysfunction of rod photoreceptors. Although the visual disability from rod dysfunction is significant, it is the subsequent loss of central vision later in life due to cone degeneration that is catastrophic. Until recently, the reason for cone dysfunction in RP was unknown. However, it is now recognized that cones degenerate, losing outer segment (OS) synthesis and inner segment (IS) disassembly because of glucose starvation following rod demise. Rod OS phagocytosis by the apical microvilli of retinal pigment epithelium is necessary to transport glucose from the choriocapillaris to the subretinal space. Although cones lose OS with the onset of rod degeneration in RP, regardless of the gene mutation in rods, cone nuclei remain viable for years (i.e. enter cone dormancy) so that therapies aimed at reversing glucose starvation can prevent and/or recover cone function and central vision.

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