Nicole Wagner, the current CEO of LambdaVision, is developing a potential cure for blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD). She is currently working on a retinal implant at the University of Connecticut's Technology Incubation Program (TIP) in Farmington.
This brand new treatment primarily uses a protein called bacteriorhodopsin, which is usually found in areas of the world with a high salt content. One place that has an overabundance of bacteriorhodopsin is the famous https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00411075”> Dead Sea, which borders Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.
Various scientific tests have shown that bacteriorhodopsin can successfully absorb light and transfer that data to retinal cells. These re-charged retinal cells then send the visual information up the optic nerve and into the brain for processing.
Wagner is now in the process of refining bacteriorhodopsin in the laboratory and incorporating the protein into retinal implants. She hopes to test these implants on patients with late stage AMD or retinitis pigmentosa in the future.
As of today, bacteriorhodopsin is only in pre-clinical trials. Doctors are still analyzing the protein's ability to help people with retinal diseases see again.
UConn's Technology Commercialization Services founded LambdaVision in 2009. Today, the research group is well respected in the medical community. Just a few awards LambdaVision has received include the 2016 UConn SPARK Technology Commercialization Fund Award and the 2016 MassChallenge CASIS-Boeing Prize for Technology.
In addition to their work with bacteriorhodopsin, researchers at LambdaVision are interested in the effects of microgravity on retinal implants. Some LambdaVision employees actually had the opportunity to test how gravity interacts with retinal implants at the International Space Station.
UConn, of course, has been a major sponsor of Lambda Vision's work. UConn's Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI) gave LambdaVision a $15,000 grant not too long ago. LambdaVision also received financial support from the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Grant.
As of today, about 31 million people have either blindness or significant vision loss due to AMD or retinitis pigmentosa. This number is only expected to rise as the populations in industrialized nations get older.
Although patients with AMD or retinitis pigmentosa might experience symptoms like blurred vision, these diseases can often present no symptoms right off the bat. Doctors advise patients over the age of 40 to schedule annual eye exams so doctors can catch AMD or retinitis pigmentosa early on.
Although AMD can't be cured, ophthalmologists can halt the disease's progression. A few popular treatment options include laser surgery, blood vessel growth inhibitors, and corrective lenses.