Accutane May Inhibit Progression of Stargardt's Disease

by Dan Roberts
April 2003
Accutane, a prescription drug used to treat acne, has been shown to inhibit the development of lipofuscin deposits in the retinas of rodent models. This is promising news for people with Stargardt’s disease.
The author of the study is Dr. Gabriel Travis, professor of ophthalmology and biological chemistry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. In an article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Gabriel reported that accutane successfully supressed the buildup of lipofuscin, toxic pigments which lead to loss of central vision.
Dr.Travis stressed that the drug will not cure Stargardt’s disease, and that clinical trials need to be started to test his findings. Stargardt’s disease is caused by a defect in the ABCR gene, disrupting a protein which normally flushes out all-trans-retinaldehyde from the photoreceptor cells. When this byproduct is not removed, lipofuscin collects. Accutane seems to inhibit the formation of all-trans-retinaldehyde, which keeps the genetic defect from destroying vision.
Accutane has been linked to serious side effects, including depression and suicide. It is important to remember that the drug is still undergoing testing as a treatment for Stargardt’s disease, and that patients should not try using it on their own for this purpose.