How to Cure Blindness with Optogenetics?

Retrosense Therapeutics, is a new startup which is aiming to restore vision for blind patients using optogenetics to treat patients who have lost their vision due to retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.

So, the idea is about a gene therapy that gives light sensitivity to neurons that don’t normally possess it.

Principle

Now, there are nearly million patients suffering from with retinitis pigmentosa experience progressive and irreversible vision loss. Their rods and cones of their eyes die due to an inherited condition.

  • Retrosense is developing a treatment in which other cells in the retina could take the place of the rods and cones, cells which convert light into electrical signals. The company is targeting a group of neurons in the eye called ganglion cells.
  • Ganglion cells don’t respond to light. Instead, they act as a conduit for electrical information sent from the retina’s rods and cones.
  • The ganglion cells then transmit visual information directly to the brain.
  • Doctors would inject a non-disease causing virus into a patient’s eye.
  • The virus would carry the genetic information needed to produce the light-sensitive channel proteins in the ganglion cells.
  • Normally, rods, cones, and other cells translate light information into a code of neuron-firing patterns that is then transmitted via the ganglion cells into the brain.
  • Since Retrosense’s therapy would bypass that information processing, it may require the brain to learn how to interpret the signals.

This technique may be common for studying brain circuits etc., but efforts are being made to bring it to patients in clinical trials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any therapies for either condition. Retrosense plans to begin its first clinical trial in 2013 with nine blind retinitis pigmentosa patients

Source: Technology Review

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