The NEI Audacious Goals Initiative: Bold Research to Restore Vision

The NEI Audacious Goals Initiative: Bold Research to Restore Vision

.. Most of us rely on our eyes to connect
with the world But a life with clear vision and all its
benefits remains out of reach for about 285 million people worldwide who are blind or visually impaired Vision loss can be caused by defects or
damage almost anywhere within the visual system This includes the front of the eye and
the light-sensitive tissue at the very back in the eye called the retina Some conditions involve problems with the optic nerve the cable that carries visual signals
deep within the brain Like the brain the retina and optic
nerve are made up of nerve cells or neurons. When neurons are damaged the human body has a limited capacity to repair them it is even more difficult to replace
neurons that have died With input from hundreds of experts, the National Eye Institute or NEI, has conceived an audacious goal to restore vision by regenerating the
neurons and neural connections in the visual system The NEI Audacious Goals Initiative will
target two particular neuronal cell types in the retina photo receptors and retinal ganglion
cells photoreceptors reside deep within the
retina and are responsible for detecting
visible light. They convert light into electrical signals These signals, the beginnings of visual
information, flow to other cell layers in the retina.
Within a fraction of a second These signals reach the retinal ganglion
cells which then carry them through the optic nerve to the brain Without photoreceptors your eyes will
be unable to detect light and you would be blind. A wide variety of
diseases can damage or even destroy photoreceptors. These
include age-related macular degeneration the most common cause a vision loss in
developed countries and retinitis pigmentosa a rare genetic disease. Without retinal
ganglion cells the visual signals generated within a retina would not reach your brain. Retinal ganglion cell death is the cause of vision loss in glaucoma,
one of the most common eye diseases worldwide There are formidable challenges to
accomplishing the audacious goal remember once they’re lost our neurons
generally are not replaced. Also neuronal
connections must be specific and nerve fibers most often bridge long
distances Overcoming challenges like these will
require collaboration by researchers from diverse fields working toward more than one solution.
One of the solutions may be to replace dead neurons in the eye or brain to stem cell therapy. Stem cells are immature cells capable of developing
into many different cell types such as neurons. By injecting stem cells
into the eye it might be possible to regenerate
neurons in the retina. Another option might be to activate stem cells that are
already present in the retina, but lying dormant. Successful regeneration
would not end there. Any newly generated cells must connect
appropriately to each other new retinal ganglion cells must connect
to the brain and electrical activity within the
retina and optic nerve must be restored The Audacious Goals Initiative will
bring together scientific experts to come up with workable solutions to these
challenges Through a concerted effort we can
stretch the capacity for repair in the retina optic nerve and brain. Imagine what that
would mean for people with vision loss the goal is audacious. The impact would be amazing.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Maybe the NEI needs to check with Robert Lanza and his team at OCATA Theraputics.

    If you check Ocata's Corporate presentations, the advancements in data & POC for both Ganglion Cells and Photoreceptors are years ahead any private or government concern.

    Very unfortunate indeed, the NIH & the NEI have not made the connection…Audacious Goals ?? How about starting the "Get A Clue" initiative….

  2. So far, it seems that the only thing being funded through the Audacious Goals is new imaging technology, which is disappointing. The current RFA in not what is needed to deliver new therapies and doesn't match what the video claims the Audacious Goals is about. It would be great if the NEI could help carry the multitude of gene therapies that are currently being developed and have a real likelihood of ending genetic blindness through the "valley of death".  That would be truly audacious.

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