‘Retinal Dystrophies’ or ‘Inherited Retinal Diseases’ are a group of ‘Rare diseases’ that cause irreversible blindness. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the commonest among them. Photoreceptors (PR), an important layer in the retina, is of two types: cones and rods. Cones are maximum at the macula and help in central vision and activities like reading and identifying colours. Rods are distributed all over the retina and help in night vision and side vision. RP is caused by a gradual degeneration of the rods, followed by cones. Affected people notice difficulty in dim-lit areas as an initial symptom. This is followed by a loss of side vision, with many people eventually losing the central vision. People with advanced RP have either a very small area of central vision or may be totally blind. RP most often starts in the first two decades of life and affects both men and women equally. Approximately, 1 in 4000 people in the world have RP. This number is significantly higher in India. There are at least 1.5 million people affected with RP in India. Moreover, since RP is an inherited disorder that runs in families, the disease is not preventable by any means.
Generating transplantable retinal photoreceptors from iPSCs holds tremendous promise to treat RP by replacing the damaged or dysfunctional native photoreceptors with healthy and functional ones. Eyestem has generated EyecytePR through a patent pending unified protocol. We have already done extensive in vitro characterization of the product and will soon be ready to start animal trials, in collaboration with the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, to test efficacy of our product.