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Encouraging new treatment for blindness being studied.

A treatment that is currently FDA approved to treat seizures, migraines and bipolar disorder is being evaluated as a possible treatment for retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Retinitis pigmentosa is a common retinal degenerative disease which is caused by the death of photoreceptor cells. It affects 1 in 4,000 young adults in America and progresses to legal blindness by age 40. A three-year clinical trial will determine the potential of valproic acid as a treatment for RP. In a previous retrospective study, 5 of 7 patients who had been treated with valproic acid daily over the course of six months experienced improvement in their field of vision. Currently, there is no standard treatment for RP because more than 40 different genes have been linked to the disease which makes it difficult to treat. If the benefits of valproic acid can be validated by randomized clinical trials, then the thousands of patients suffering from RP could benefit from a low dose of valproic acid. Andrea Schumann Staff Writer

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