Treating Blindness by Manipulating Intraretinal Melanopsin Signaling

2017 Seed Grant
Kwoon Wong, Ph.D.
The University of Michigan

Inherited loss of rod and cone photoreceptors is a leading cause of blindness and treatment options remain very limited. In this project, Dr. Kwoon Y. Wong will develop a novel strategy for sight restoration that exploits the recent discovery of non-rod non-cone photoreceptors in mammalian retinas: Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). ipRGCs remain light-sensitive in many individuals who are blind, and Dr. Wong’s strategy is to enhance retinal photosensitivity by promoting signal transmission from ipRGCs to other retinal cells, which then signal to visual centers of the brain to evoke conscious visual perception. This approach could enable patients with vision loss to improve their sight simply through topical administration of an eye drop. This grant will help Dr. Wong optimize this method and potentially pave the way for human clinical trials on sight restoration.