ourESRexplains #7

Andreea-Elena explains the spatial resolution of artificial vision using optogenetic and electrical stimulation.

Since we convey most of the information about our surrounding world through vision, blindness is a severe condition. Within our network, we focus on strategies towards vision restoration, tackling problems induced by various maladies.

Our group studies mainly the first stage of vision, the retinal visual processing. Retina is a thin tissue, found at the back of the eye which is organized in cell layers (photoreceptors, bipolar cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells and ganglion cells). Some of the largely spread conditions which could be aided by interventions at the retina stage occur because these layers of cells undergo degeneration. Normally, the light is sensed by the photoreceptors which transform this into electrical signal that is passed through the rest of the retinal network. In the absence of this light sensitivity, the brain cannot receive the information about surrounding objects.

Since long, people have thought of compensating for the lost photoreceptors by electrically stimulating the remnant retinal cells. As a result, the electrical retinal stimulation is a fairly well studied field and some electronic implants were available and new prototypes are being developed. Starting with the 2000s, a new therapy emerged; the optogenetics. By introducing a light sensitive protein into a certain cell target, the light sensitivity can, possibly be restored.

In our recent paper, we compare the potential of these two techniques to restore high spatial resolution vision.