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Proceedings of the First International Optogenetic Therapies for Vision Symposium.

ABSTRACT

Optogenetics is a research field that uses gene therapy to deliver a gene encoding a light-activated protein to cells providing light-regulated control of targeted cell pathways. The technology is a popular tool in many fields of neuroscience, used to transiently switch cells on and off, for example, to map neural circuits. In inherited retinal degenerative diseases, where loss of vision results from the loss of photoreceptors, optogenetics can be applied to either augment the function of surviving photoreceptors or confer light sensitivity to naturally nonlight sensitive retinal cells, such as a bipolar cells. This can be achieved either by the light sensitive protein integrating with native internal signaling pathways, or by using a dual function membrane protein that integrates light signaling with an ion channel or pump activity. Exposing treated cells to light of the correct wavelength activates the protein, resulting in cellular depolarization or hyperpolarization that triggers neurological signaling to the visual cortex. While there is a lot of interest in optogenetics as a pan-disease clinical treatment for end-stage application in the inherited degenerative diseases of the retina, research to date has been limited to nonhuman clinical studies. To address the clinical translational needs of this technology, the Foundation Fighting Blindness and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary cohosted an International Optogenetic Therapies for Vision Workshop, which was held at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts on June 1, 2012.