The National Institutes of Health will fund six projects to identify biological factors that affect neural regeneration in the retina. The projects are part of the National Eye Institute (NEI) Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI), a targeted effort to restore vision by regenerating neurons and their connections in the eye and visual system. These projects will receive a total of $12.4 million over three years, pending availability of funds. The NIH made this announcement in a press release issued September 1, 2016. “Understanding factors that mediate the regeneration of neurons and the growth of axons is crucial for the development of breakthrough therapies for blinding diseases. What we learn through these projects will have a health impact beyond vision,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the NEI, part of the NIH. Most irreversible blindness results from the loss of neurons in the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Many common eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, put these cells at risk. Once these neurons are gone, humans have little if any capacity to replace them. These six funded projects are intended to add to the knowledge base from several recent key advances. Researchers recently reported a technique that increases the regenerative capacity of retinal axons in a mouse model of optic nerve injury, a model commonly used to study glaucoma and other optic neuropathies. Progress also has been made in identifying factors that either stimulate or inhibit regeneration of neurons required for vision.
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