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Converting rods into cones in a model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) rescues retinal degeneration

New research, conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine, has reported the rescue of a retinal degeneration by reprogramming rods into cones. The study, led by Drs. Cynthia Montana and Joseph Corbo, used a well-characterized retinal transcription factor to re-direct rods to a cone cell fate. The result of the cellular reprogramming reduced rod photoreceptor cell death in a model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). As RP progresses, the loss of the rod cell population has a deleterious impact on the cones which subsequently degenerate leaving patients with both reduced or absent photopic and scotopic vision. The results of the research suggest that maintaining a rod photoreceptor cell architecture may be sufficient to slow or halt cone cell degeneration.