Rochester team receives National Eye Institute grant for restoring vision through retinal regeneration

May 1, 2015

A team of researchers at the University of Rochester is designing an optical system to image responses to light of large numbers of individual cells in the retina, with the objective of accelerating the development of the next generation of cures for blindness. The Rochester team and their partners will receive $3.8 million from the National Eye Institute over the next five years.

“The new instrumentation we are developing builds on technology we had developed previously to improve vision through laser refractive surgery and contact lenses, as well as to diagnose retinal disease,” said Rochester’s principal investigator David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics and director of the Center for Visual Science. “This is the first time we have designed instrumentation specifically to develop and test therapies to restore vision in the blind.”

The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced the awards as part of its Audacious Goals Initiative to tackle the most devastating and difficult to treat eye diseases. The central goal is to restore vision by regenerating neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system. The initiative places special emphasis on cells of the retina, including the light-sensitive rod and cone photoreceptors, and the retinal ganglion cells, which connect photoreceptors to the brain via the optic nerve.

“These ambitious projects will give us a window into the visual system,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. “Tools developed will enhance the study of functional changes in the retina and optic nerve, in real-time and at the cellular level, and will be indispensable when evaluating new regenerative therapies for eye diseases.”

More information can be found in the Rochester Newscenter.