Nanoscale Modulators of Retinal Postsynaptic Receptors

David Pepperberg, PhD The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

Co-Principal Investigators

Haohua Qian, PhD Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Details

In the normally functioning retina, visual signals initiated in the rod and cone photoreceptor cells are transmitted to other nerve cells of the retina called “post-photoreceptor” cells. Patients with retinal degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have deteriorating rods and cones. However, there is reason to believe that in certain patients, post-photoreceptor retinal nerve cells remain capable of functioning.

Functional post-photoreceptor cells suggest an opportunity to restore sight in AMD patients. Our idea is to develop molecular structures (tiny machines) that would interact with specific proteins on the surfaces of these cells and stimulate them in response to light that enters the eye. The molecular structures that we envision, once introduced into the patient's diseases retina, would bind tightly to the post-photoreceptor cells and initiate visual signals, thereby bypassing the deteriorated rod and cone cells. The overall goal of the project is to design and construct structures that can achieve this challenging objective in molecular bioengineering and nanotechnology. These molecular machines could serve as a therapy for AMD, and additionally could provide a model for treating other neurodegenerative diseases.