This project shows true interdisciplinary, transversal research: Clinical tests are conducted with light sensitive, molecular systems in partnership with the Friedrich-Miescher Institute of our industry-partner, Novartis. Should the tests be successful, this project could enable blind people to see in black and white again and, eventually, regain their full color vision.
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) refers to a diverse group of progressive, hereditary diseases of the retina that lead to incurable blindness and affects 2 million people worldwide. Artificial photoreceptors constructed by gene delivery of light-activated channels or pumps (functional molecular modules) to surviving cell types in the remaining retinal circuit have shown to restore photosensitivity in animal models of RP at the level of the retina and cortex as well as behaviourally.
Simply said, in a degenerated macula the first step is missing: there are no more rods and cones that can detect light and subsequently convert light into neural signal. The visual nerves however are intact. In tests with apes and dogs the genetically delivered molecular factories dock successfully with the visual nerve of the eye and are activated by light, producing certain impulses that enables blind animals to see again.