The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain and, if damaged, can cause devastating ocular problems for patients, even if the eye is relatively healthy. Repairing and/or regenerating the optic nerve would allow individuals with optic nerve damage to potentially regain their vision. Eventually, the success of this work will lead to research in whole eye transplants.

Glaucoma, a chronic disease, also compromises the optic nerve, leading to death of retinal ganglion cells and deficits in overall visual function. Unfortunately, despite progress over the last two decades on understanding disease processes that compromise the optic nerve and its functions, there is not an effective strategy to regenerate retina ganglion cells and their axons, or to restore connections between the eye and brain once the optic nerve is lost. This is a major barrier in the field and one that must be overcome given the substantial number of patients suffering from optic neuropathy associated blindness.

Established in 2008, The Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh is the first national, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary research and clinical program dedicated to ocular regenerative medicine. In recent years, the Fox Center resources have been aimed at validating strategies to regenerate the optic nerve and reconnect the eye and the brain. The Fox Center research team expects to break down some of the major barriers to clinical treatment and move closer to implementing novel cell therapies to restore vision to those that have lost it due to optic neuropathy.

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