Michael Crair, Yale University, and Carol Mason, Columbia University, have co-authored a report published online today in the Journal of Neuroscience. “Reconnecting Eye to Brain” is a comprehensive assessment of what scientists know about optic nerve development, regeneration, and reconnection. The report was based on input gathered during the Oct. 16, 2015, panel discussion, titled “Reconnecting Neurons in the Visual System,” sponsored by the National Eye Institute Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI). The panel comprised two dozen leading experts on neural development and regeneration. 

The AGI is developing therapies to restore vision, lost through disease or injury, by regenerating the retina. A major AGI challenge is reconnecting retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons that project from the retina to the brain. Zebrafish do this naturally after injury. What might we learn from Zebrafish to inform us about the regeneration mechanisms in humans?

The report addresses guiding RGC axons to targets in the brain, promoting target engagement and synaptogenesis, replicating successful approaches in other organ systems, and fostering new approaches and opportunities. It highlights advances of the past two decades in understanding guidance factors, and lingering challenges—for example, RGC subtypes vary in their ability to regenerate. “The collective wisdom of the conference participants pointed to important gaps in our knowledge and barriers to progress in promoting the restoration of visual system function,” wrote the authors in the report. 

The NEI AGI is an effort to push the boundaries of vision science. By facilitating cross-disciplinary research, the AGI is tackling the most devastating and difficult-to-treat eye diseases. Learn more about the NEI AGI at www.nei.nih.gov/audacious.