Stargardt's macular degeneration, also called juvenile macular degeneration, is an inherited disease which affects one in 10,000 people. This condition results from a defect in the ABCR gene, which is responsible for coding for a protein that removes all-trans-retinaldehyde, a vision byproduct, from retinal rods and cones. Rods and cones are supported by retinal-pigmented epithelium (RPE), a layer of cells near the retina. The accumulation of toxic pigments, or lipofuscin results in the deterioration of the RPE leading to loss of rods and cones and subsequent central vision loss.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, have now found that Accutane, an acne treatment drug, stops the accumulation of lipofuscin in the eyes of mice with Stargardt's macular degeneration. Upon examination of the mice after two months of treatment with Accutane, the side effect of which includes night blindness, the researchers found no accumulation of toxins in the eyes. Gabriel Travis, M.D., suggested that the similarity of the mouse model with humans with Stargardt's makes it likely that Accutane will suppress lipofuscin from accumulating in Stargardt's patients.