My lab engineers designer optogenetic and viral tools to (1) investigate the function of the retina in health and disease and (2) to develop novel molecular therapeutics for vision restoration. The strength of my lab is the synergistic and interdisciplinary combination of state-of-the art molecular, viral, cellular, functional and behavioral techniques.
The main focus of my lab lies on the restoration of vision in the blind. My lab developed an innovative designer optogenetic tool for the bipolar cells of the retina, Opto-mGluR6 (van Wyk et al., PLoS Biology, 2015), which restores natural contrast vision in blind mice. For the clinical development of an optogenetic gene therapy, we engineer novel adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid variants and novel enhancer-core promoters for cell-specific Opto-mGluR6 expression.
Due to my broad interest in translational optogenetic application, my lab further engineers custom-designed optogenetic tools and viruses for alternative cell-type specific optogenetic therapies, such as for the treatment if skin cancer, chronic pain or paralysis.
A further goal is the elucidation of so far elusive retinal processes that become accessible with our newly designed molecular tools. A main focus here is the adaptations in signaling during disease and to apply the newly gained insights to improve potential treatment strategies for blindness.