Optogenetics is a recently established division in the Ocular Tissue Engineering Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, aiming to introduce an emerging and promising approach for restoring vision in patients with advanced retinal degeneration. This treatment modality essentially restores light sensitivity and, potentially, meaningful vision to people who have very little, if any, vision remaining.
Optogenetics is a new research field in ophthalmology that delivers a gene encoding a light-activated protein to cells, providing light-regulated control of targeted cell pathways. This can be achieved either by the light sensitive proteins such as channel rhodopsins 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. The gene encoding a photoswitch protein such as channel rhodopsin is delivered to the retinal cells that are not naturally light-sensitive such as bipolar cells or ganglion cells. Therefore, optogenetics can be used to make retinal neurons light sensitive and to restore retinal activity after degeneration of the photoreceptors.