Retinitis pigmentosa: rod photoreceptor rescue by a calcium-channel blocker in the rd mouse.
Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited degenerative disease of photoreceptors leading to blindness. A well-characterized model for this disease is provided by the retinal degeneration mouse, in which the gene for the rod cGMP phosphodiesterase is mutated, as in some affected human families. We report that D-cis-diltiazem, a calcium-channel blocker that also acts at light-sensitive cGMP-gated channels, rescued photoreceptors and preserved visual function in the retinal degeneration mouse. The long record of diltiazem prescription in cardiology should facilitate the design of clinical trials for some forms of retinitis pigmentosa.