Lutein is a dietary carotenoid found in the eye with reported anti-oxidant properties. This study tested the effect of oral lutein when given to mice with retinitis pigmentosa caused by a mutation in the Pde6b gene. They found that mice who received lutein appeared to have slowed photoreceptor degeneration compared to those who did not receive treatment. They hypothesize that a likely mechanism of action is that lutein has an anti-oxidative effect in the retina which weakens the immune response to the dying photoreceptor cells.
What this means for Usher syndrome: While other potential RP treatments are invasive and often require surgery or injections, lutein is an over-the-counter anti-oxidant that is non-invasive and can be consumed orally. These results further support the promotion of a simple pill that may help slow down retinal degeneration enabling the affected individuals to maintain and enjoy a higher quality of life for longer.