The Foundation Fighting Blindness and Massachusetts Eye and Ear will host the Optogenetic Therapies for Vision workshop on Friday, June 1, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., in Boston. The day-long forum will unite researchers, retinal specialists, companies interested in gene therapy, regulators, and the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI), to examine the clinical path of optogenetic approaches in treating vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and related conditions that affect more than 10 million Americans.
Co-chairing the workshop are Mass. Eye and Ear's Richard H. Masland, Ph.D., and the University of California, Berkeley's John Flannery, Ph.D., with top scientific minds from MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and several other renowned institutions in attendance to collaborate on further applying the latest developments in optogenetics to vision research.
A relatively new field of research, optogenetics is a process that uses gene therapy to empower cells, including those in the retina and the brain, to respond to light. Its potential is especially exciting because this method stands to benefit people with even very advanced sight loss. One optogenetic approach has already restored some vision in mice by enabling ganglion cells in highly degenerated retinas to convert light into electrical signals and send them to the brain to be interpreted as vision.
"We hope to map out how progress in optogenetic research will translate into clinical trials for patients losing vision and determine how the Foundation can invest resources to accelerate the process," said Foundation Fighting Blindness Chief Research Officer Stephen Rose, Ph.D. "Bringing together the necessary research and biotech players to advance lab studies into human trials is a major role the Foundation plays to move the needle beyond simply funding promising research."