A standard heart drug delayed blindness in mice with a condition resembling retinitis pigmentosa, raising doctors' hopes in the battle against the genetic disorder that afflicts up to 200,000 Americans.
The drug, diltiazem, sold under such names as Cardizem and Tiazac, is approved for treating high blood pressure and angina. French scientists tested it in mice and presented their findings in the October issue of the journal Nature Medicine.
Scientists are now trying to arrange for studies in humans.
"If the treatment could postpone the occurrence of blindness by a few years, it would be a big achievement, but this remains to be demonstrated in humans," said one of the study's authors, Serge Picaud of Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France, and INSERM, the French equivalent of the National Institutes of Health.