Activation of the molecular chaperone, sigma 1 receptor, preserves cone function in a murine model of inherited retinal degeneration.

Retinal degenerative diseases are major causes of untreatable blindness, and novel approaches to treatment are being sought actively. Here we explored the activation of a unique protein, sigma 1 receptor (Sig1R), in the treatment of PRC loss because of its multifaceted role in cellular survival.  We used Pde6βrd10 (rd10) mice, which harbor a mutation in the rod-specific phosphodiesterase gene Pde6β and lose rod and cone photoreceptor cells (PRC) within the first 6 wk of life, as a model for severe retinal degeneration.  Systemic administration of the high-affinity Sig1R ligand (+)-pentazocine [(+)-PTZ] to rd10 mice over several weeks led to the rescue of cone function as indicated by electroretinographic recordings using natural noise stimuli and preservation of cone cells upon spectral domain optical coherence tomography and retinal histological examination.  The findings may have far-reaching therapeutic implications for retinal neurodegenerative diseases.

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