Regenerating optic pathways from the eye to the brain

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Abstract

Humans are highly visual. Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the neurons that connect the eyes to the brain, fail to regenerate after damage, eventually leading to blindness. Here, we review research on regeneration and repair of the optic system. Intrinsic developmental growth programs can be reactivated in RGCs, neural activity can enhance RGC regeneration, and functional reformation of eye-to-brain connections is possible, even in the adult brain. Transplantation and gene therapy may serve to replace or resurrect dead or injured retinal neurons. Retinal prosthetics that can restore vision in animal models may too have practical power in the clinical setting. Functional restoration of sight in certain forms of blindness is likely to occur in human patients in the near future.

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