A ketogenic & low-protein diet slows retinal degeneration in rd10 mice

Renee C. Ryals, Samuel J. Huang, Dahlia Wafai, Claire Bernert, William Steele, Makayla Six, Shasank Bonthala, Hope Titus, Paul Yang, Melanie Gillingham, Mark E. Pennesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Treatments that delay retinal cell death regardless of genetic causation are needed for inherited retinal degeneration (IRD) patients. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, used to treat epilepsy, and has beneficial effects for neurodegen-erative diseases. This study aimed to determine whether the ketogenic diet could slow retinal degeneration. Methods: Early weaned, rd10 and wild-type (WT) mice were placed on either standard chow, a ketogenic diet, or a ketogenic & low-protein diet. From postnatal day (PD) 23 to PD50, weight and blood β-hydroxybutyrate levels were recorded. Retinal thick-ness, retinal function, and visual performance were measured via optical coherence tomography, electroretinography (ERG), and optokinetic tracking (OKT). At PD40, serum albumin, rhodopsin protein, and phototransduction gene expression were measured. Results: Both ketogenic diets elicited a systemic induction of ketosis. However, rd10 mice on the ketogenic & low-protein diet had significant increases in photorecep-tor thickness, ERG amplitudes, and OKT thresholds, whereas rd10 mice on the ketogenic diet showed no photoreceptor preservation. In both rd10 and WT mice, the ketogenic & low-protein diet was associated with abnormal weight gain and decreases in serum albumin levels, 27% and 56%, respectively. In WT mice, the ketogenic & low-protein diet was also associated with an ∼20% to 30% reduction in ERG amplitudes. Conclusions: The ketogenic & low-protein diet slowed retinal degeneration in a clini-cally relevant IRD model. In WT mice, the ketogenic & low-protein diet was associated with a decrease in phototransduction and serum albumin, which could serve as a protec-tive mechanism in the rd10 model. Although ketosis was associated with protection, its role remains unclear. Translational Relevance: Neuroprotective mechanisms associated with the ketogenic & low-protein diet have potential to slow retinal degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalTranslational Vision Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2020


  • Ketogenic diet
  • Neuroprotection
  • Protein deficiency
  • Rd10 mouse
  • Retinal degeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Ophthalmology


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