One of the key life-changing programs that will be conducted at the Pittsburgh Vision Institute will be Cortical Vision. Retinal ganglion cell degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in the Western World. Ganglion cell degeneration occurs in a variety of pathological conditions, including ocular trauma, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, tumors, or optic neuropathies. Since retinal ganglion cells are the only conduits of visual information from the retina to higher visual centers, ganglion cell degeneration leaves the higher visual centers devoid of any visual input and, therefore, inevitably leads to complete blindness. Our Cortical Vision program aims to restore visual perception by reintroducing visual information directly into higher visual centers, such as the thalamus or primary visual cortex of the brain, using prosthetics and optogenetic stimulation. Indeed, the successful translational steps towards ongoing clinical trials of prosthetic and optogenetic visual restoration following photoreceptor degeneration at the level of the retina has paved the way to transfer these technologies to restore visual activity by reactivating higher visual centers.
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