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University Clinic for Ophthalmology and Optometry
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Research Projects.

Millions of people diagnosed with inherited retinal dystrophy (IRD), such as retinitis pigmentosa, are suffering from severe visual impairment or even legal blindness. Electronic retinal prostheses are approved therapeutical approaches for vision restoration, but due to several use limitations their manufacture has been suspended. Organic semiconductor polymers are an encouraging alternative material, due to their key prosthetic features such as flexibility, light sensitivity and biocompatibility. 

In contrast, the reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and the breakthrough of 3D retinal organoids (ROs) technology represent a great humanized model that can mimic the disease’s pathophysiology.

We aim to investigate the functional impact of a novel organic and flexible retinal prosthesis on human RO models derived from IRD patients. We will also study the organic materials’ light sensitivity and photostimulation capabilities and the implant biocompatibility.

The project will have a huge impact in understanding IRD and organic prosthesis functionality and will ultimately advance the therapeutic approach to restore vision.

Title: Patient-derived and Aged Retinal Organoids as In Vitro Models for Organic Prosthesis

The reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and the progress of 3D retinal organoids (RO) technology provide a great opportunity to study, understand and even treat retinal diseases, while avoiding the usage of animal tissues.

We hypothesize that patient derived and age-induced ROs will better recapitulate in vitro the disease pathophysiology and will serve therefore as suitable humanized models to test the efficiency of novel organic retinal prosthesis. 

This project will provide 2 major outcomes which will significantly impact the research in the community: a novel retinal organoid model that can replace animal models and a novel organic retinal prosthesis.

Title: Patient-derived Retino-cortical Assembloids as in vitro model system of Retinal Dystrophy

The current models do not fully recapitulate the disease pathophysiology because they lack the proper connections to the brain. In this study we hypothesize that retino-cortical assembloid derived from inherited retinal dystrophy (IRD) patient will recapitulate the disease pathophysiology and will show discrete cellular, molecular and functional differences as human in vitro models.

This project will have a big impact in improving in vitro human models, in order to reduce on one hand the use of animal models, and to improve on the other hand our understanding of IRD disease and advance the therapeutic approaches to restore vision.