Usher syndrome is the most common genetic cause of combined deafness and blindness. More than 400,000 people are affected by this worldwide. There is currently no cure for Usher syndrome, but there is a growing USH community.
The mission of the Usher Syndrome Coalition is to raise awareness and accelerate research while providing information and support to individuals and families affected by Usher syndrome. We strive to be the most comprehensive resource for the Usher syndrome community, bridging the gap between researchers and families. Learn more and get involved.
Mark Dunning, founder of the Usher Syndrome Coalition steps down from the Board of Directors and warmly welcomes long-time supporter Lanya McKittrick, Ph.D., as the new chair of the Usher Syndrome Coalition.
Researchers have discovered a technique for directly reprogramming skin cells into light-sensing rod photoreceptors used for vision. The laboratory-made rods enabled blind mice to detect light after the cells were transplanted into the animals’ eyes. According to Anand Swaroop Ph.D., senior investigator, “This is the first study to show that direct, chemical reprogramming can produce retinal-like cells, which gives us a new and faster strategy for developing therapies for age-related macular degeneration and other retinal disorders caused by the loss of photoreceptors.” The immediate benefit of this technique will be the ability to develop models to allow us to study the mechanisms of the disease and design better cell replacement approaches. Induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells take about six months to create, however direct reprogramming takes only about ten days to convert skin cells into functional photoreceptors. A clinical trial to test the therapy in humans for degenerative rental diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa is in the works.
What this means for Usher syndrome: This new technique holds promise for treatment of many retinal degenerative diseases, including Usher syndrome.
The Usher Syndrome Coalition has been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, while listening to speaker and attendee concerns. The Coalition’s Board of Directors and staff have made the difficult decision to postpone the in-person USH Connections Conference and to hold a virtual event in its place this July 2020.
Originally planned for July 10-11, 2020 at the Omni Austin Hotel at Southpark, the venue has been incredibly accommodating, offering us the opportunity to postpone the event to the same time next year, July 9-10, 2021.
Please join our Hearts on Hand outreach campaign to inform, reach out and provide virtual support to our USH Family during this difficult time.
The Scientific and Medical Advisory Board of Retina International recommends that those affected by an underlying retinal dystrophy do not self-medicate with chloroquine and strongly advises patients to follow the advice of their healthcare provider prior to any use of chloroquine. It is still unclear how chloroquine or any antimalarial drug would work against COVID-19.
Chloroquine is an antimalarial drug that was FDA approved in 1934. Since then it has been found to be beneficial for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The standard doses of chloroquine used for the treatment of malaria and other diseases have few side effects. However, toxicity is encountered when high doses are injected very rapidly into the bloodstream (parenterally) or taken as tablets (orally) in regular doses over many years. Patients with underlying retinal disease may be at higher risk for chloroquine toxicity. The most serious complications of chloroquine are retinopathy, cardiomyopathy, neuromyopathy and myopathy. The retinopathy is encountered with the prolonged use of chloroquine that can lead to irreversible damage to the retina and the loss of vision. Chloroquine toxicity is of serious concern for the retina because it is not treatable. Additionally, there have been cases of progressive vision loss in patients even years after the treatment by chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine.
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