Research from Trinity College Dublin has identified a new potential target for treating retinal diseases, called SARM1. Already known to be involved in the degeneration of neuronal cells, this is the first study which indicates a role for SARM1 in rod and cone potoreceptor cell deterioration.
Rod and cone cells are light-sensitive cells located within the retina and respond to dim and bright light respectively. They generate electrical impulses which are sent to the brain where images are formed of our surrounding environment. When rod and cone cells degenerate and die, reduced visual capacity follows and depending on whether the rod or cone cells are affected, people experience a loss of peripheral vision or central and colour vision.
In this study, genetic mouse models with Retinitis Pigmentosa were generated by inhibiting the activity of the rhodopsin gene. In mouse models who also had no SARM1 protein present, the rod and cone photoreceptor cells showed better survival rates compared to when SARM1 protein is present. These findings indicate that SARM1 accelerates photoreceptor cell-death and its absence increases the lifespan of rod and cone photoreceptor cells and allows for normal vision to be maintained.
This discovery will certainly lead to more progress as we continue to learn about what causes photoreceptor cell degeneration and identify new therapeutic efforts to restore normal visual function.
The full paper can be read by clicking on the link below: