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When the photoreceptor cells in your retina die, the light vanishes. For good.
But recent exciting work by UHN's Dr. Valerie Wallace, when studying cone photoreceptor transplants to the eye, has uncovered a novel and surprising property of material exchange between cells.
Now, she and her dedicated team are evaluating whether this exchange process could help restore vision.
Dr. Wallace, co-director of the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute within the Krembil Research Institute and holder of the Donald K. Johnson Chair in Vision Research, is primarily interested in blindness as a result of retinal disease.
"My lab in particular is focused on diseases that impair the function or cause the death of the photoreceptors," she says. "The photoreceptors are the cells in the retina that you need to sense light.
"If you lose them, your retina does not work," says Dr. Wallace.
"Because there are no treatments to restore vision after photoreceptors die, we are taking this very conceptually simple approach, and that is: 'Can we circumvent all of this cell loss by just putting in healthy photoreceptors, and would they behave like normal photoreceptors and hook up to the rest of the retina and restore the ability to respond to light?'
"It's really, really simple." Dr. Wallace laughs, "Well, the idea is simple."
The Krembil Research Institute and the Globe and Mail have teamed up for a special content project designed to highlight the tremendous accomplishments of our scientists and research programs at Krembil. The first of three magazines in this series looked at the brain and spine program and was released in the spring. A second magazine highlighting the vision program is now available online and a the third in the series will explore the arthritis program later this year.