On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, Dr. Richard Masland, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University) will present “Optogenetics in Retinal Degenerative Diseases ” as part of the College’s Light InSight Lecture Series.
Abstract: Retinal ganglion cells, the final output neurons of the retina, are a target for strategies aimed at restoring vision after retinal degeneration. Most retinal degenerations affect primarily the photoreceptor cells; the ganglion cells survive. If they could be effectively activated by light, some level of vision might be restored. The anatomy and function of retinal ganglion cells will be reviewed: they come in roughly 30 different types, each sending a different coding of the visual stimulus to the brain. Experiments in mice show proof of principle that an animal with degenerated photoreceptors can be granted simple vision when gene therapy methods are used to express light sensitive proteins in the retinal ganglion cells. Some of the issues in advancing this strategy to the clinic will be discussed.