Treatment for Stargardts Disease

There is no cure for Stargardt’s disease. Current treatment for Stargardt’s disease focuses on slowing the progressive vision loss and helping the affected person cope with changes in vision. There are, however, some promising new therapies for Stargardt, including drugs, alternative treatments and stem cell therapy.

What Is It?

Stargardt’s disease, sometimes referred to as Stargardt disease, is the most common form of juvenile macular degeneration. It is a recessive hereditary disease caused by the mutation of a particular gene in the cells that help nourish the photo sensors in the eye. Stargardt disease is characterized by the accumulation of yellow-white fatty deposits, a natural by-product of normal cell activity, in and around the macula. If the deposits are throughout the back of the eye, it is called fundus flavimaulatus. It results in progressive loss of vision, often to the point of legal blindness.

Drug Treatment

There is currently no accepted drug treatment for Stargardt disease, but one company is working on an oral medication that may slow the buildup of fatty wastes in the eye. The drug showed positive results in preclinical studies and Phase I studies, and is in a Phase II clinical trial. While it is being developed as a treatment for dry macular degeneration, it may also work as a treatment for Stargardt’s disease and other retinal conditions.

Another startup pharmaceutical company is working on a compound that may boost the function of the mitochondria in cells, which operate at a reduced level in people with retinal deterioration. The company has identified three compounds that appear to boost mitochondrial function and are currently experimenting to determine which compound shows the most promise in people and move it to clinical trial.

Surgical Treatment

There are currently no surgical treatments for Stargart’s disease.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Doctors often recommend that those affected by Stargardt disease avoid bright light, and prescribe sunglasses that block UV rays that can damage the retina. In addition, those who are affected by the disease often wear glasses with polycarbonate lenses to protect the eyes from injury. Researchers also recommend limiting foods that contain vitamin A and beta carotene because people with Stargardt’s disease appear unable to make an enzyme to get rid of the waste products from metabolizing those substances.

Alternative Therapies

Ayurvedic medicine offers a number of different kinds of treatment for Stargardt’s disease, including herbal medicines that contain micronutrients that are known to nourish the photoreceptors in the eyes, and others that help prevent or reduce the fatty deposits that are responsible for vision loss in this disease.

Stem Cell Therapy for Stargardt’s Disease

There are a number of researchers working on promising treatment for Stargardt’s disease using stem cells. Researchers have been able to derive retinal cells from embryonic stem cells for a number of years, and in recent studies, surgeons have implanted derived retinal cells in mice and rats with Stargardt’s disease with very good results.