It may be possible, one day, to use gene therapy to treat diseases whose genetic defects have been discerned. Because many genes responsible for inherited eye disorders within the retina have been identified, diseases of the eye are prime candidates for this form of therapy. The eye also has the advantage of being highly accessible with altered immunological properties, important considerations for easy delivery of virus and avoidance of systemic immune responses. Currently, adenovirus, adeno-associated virus and lentivirus have been used to successfully transfer genetic material to retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptor cells. By harnessing therapeutic genes to these viruses, researchers have been able to demonstrate rescue in rodent models of retinitis pigmentosa, providing evidence that this form of therapy can be effective in delaying photoreceptor cell death. Future challenges include confirming therapeutic effects in animal models with eyes more anatomically similar to those of humans and demonstrating long-term rescue with minimal toxicity. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.