Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinal Implant

The FDA has approved an artificial implant, called Argus 11, to restore some sight to people with retinitis pigmentosa. A special pair of glasses is outfitted with a video camera and a video processing unit that sends signals to a wireless receiver implanted in the eye. “To restore vision, signals from the camera are sent to the retina, where they travel to the optic nerve in the brain.

iPhone Low Vision Aid

The Apple iPhone has an app (app = application, or a small program), LookTel Recognizer, available in the iTunes App Store, that allows visually impaired users to recognize items and surroundings. You point the iPhone camera and listen to the phone. The phone recognizes and identifies the object or location. There is no need to hold the camera still or take a photo.

Free Tax Help for the Elderly and Disabled

Congress has appropriated $12 million in funding to support the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Grants were given to organizations that will offer free tax preparation services to the elderly and disabled. To qualify, your income should be below $50,000. The toll free number for locations on tax counseling and income tax assistance is 800-906-9887.



Stem Cells Derived From Skin Improve Vision

In an experimental study at Schepens Eye Research Institute, red mice were used to convert skin cells into retinal neurons and thus restore visual function. They found a significant increase in electrical activity in the newly reconstructed retinal tissue, signifying that connections were being made between the new photoreceptor cells  and the rest of the retina.   Michael J.

Retinal Implant for Retinitis Pigmentosa Shows Promise

Scientists at the University of Tübingen in Germany have developed an eye implant that has had success in restoring some vision in patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that can result in blindness and affects about 1 in 4,000 people worldwide. While the findings are the result of a small study, they are particularly important as a "proof of concept" that demonstrates that the optic nerves can be " for them to be able to see again", according to Robert Maclaren, professor of Ophthalmology at Britain's Oxford University.

New Tool in Gene Therapy Arsenal

Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts have discovered a new way to transfer DNA, thus safely protecting cells from retinal degeneration. A peptide called PEG-POD is the vehicle for therapeutic gene delivery.

Funding for Retinitis Pigmentosa and AMD Research at Harvard Medical School

Schepens Eye Institute at Harvard Medical School received an unrestricted grant to develop human retinal cell based therapies for eye diseases.  Although the initial focus is on retinitis pigmentosa, the program will have applications for age-related macular degeneration as well.

Rods and Cones

The two types of light-sensitive cells of the retina are rods and cones. Named because of their cylindrical shape, rods are interspersed throughout the retina. They are highly sensitive to low light and shadow and allow for at least some degree of nighttime vision. Cones are present throughout the retina also, but are very highly concentrated in the fovea of the macula. Different cones are sensitive to different wavelengths and allow one to see vivid colors and sharp detail in conditions of bright light. There are 20 times more rods than cones.

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Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa is one in a group of diseases classified as hereditary chorioretinal dystrophies. There are multiple forms of retinitis pigmentosa, each occurring as a result of a specific abnormal gene. The disease is inherited in a number of different ways. Genetic testing and counseling are very helpful in determining the form of the disease, how it has been inherited, and what treatments are available or are being researched. Retinitis pigmentosa is usually diagnosed during young adulthood and can be difficult to accept.


It is the retina that allows one to see. The retina lines the back of the eye and consists of extremely thin layers of light-sensitive cells called photoreceptors, nerve cells, and support cells responsible for nourishing the photoreceptors. Together, the cells of the retina translate light, shadow, movement, and contrast into recognizable images. The photoreceptors of the retina, known as rods and cones, capture light, which is instantly changed to electrical impulses.

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