Restoring Human Retinal Function
We aim at testing the concepts we have developed in the past years, in the human retina and to use this knowledge to develop an optogenetic treatment for patients with Retinitis pigmentosa (RP). In initial stages of RP, the photoreceptor outer-segments, the light sensitive part of the photoreceptors, degenerate. However, the soma and synaptic terminal remain intact and connected to the retinal network. So, if it were possible to reactive these degenerated photoreceptors, vision would, at least partly, be restored. We want to do just that.
We aim at making cones or bipolar cells light sensitive with optogenetic techniques. This approach offers the unique opportunity to restore retinal function in blind people and would be the first clinical application of optogenetics. We will use postmortem human donor retinas for these studies. As such this project will represent the culmination and synthesis of all our basic research questions concerning outer retinal function and processing.