Several research groups funded through the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) are developing new imaging tools to see the eye and optic nerve in unprecedented detail. The researchers will use these tools to resolve individual nerve cells. They’ll go beyond examining the cells’ anatomy to measuring the cells’ function; asking not only whether the cells look healthy but whether they act healthy. Ultimately, this advanced imaging technology will be used to test the effects of potential regenerative therapies developed through the AGI. For more information about this research and a look at some stunning images of the visual system captured by scientists—past and present—watch NEI’s new video. (link is external)
Six NEI Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) projects aim to identify biological factors that affect neural regeneration in the retina.
Most irreversible blindness results from the loss of neurons in the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Many common eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, put these cells at risk. Once these neurons are gone, humans have little if any capacity to replace them.
These six projects will add to the knowledge base from several recent key advances. Researchers recently reported a technique that increases the regenerative capacity of retinal axons in a mouse model of optic nerve injury, a model commonly used to study glaucoma and other optic neuropathies. Progress also has been made in identifying factors that either stimulate or inhibit regeneration of neurons required for vision. The newly-funded projects will further this area of research by identifying cues that guide axons to appropriate targets in the brain, allowing functional connections to re-establish between the eye and the visual processing system.