Tag Archive for: blindness treatment

The Lifelong Vision Project


In an ambitious attempt to combat blindness, a consortium of leading researchers led by Prof. Caroline Klaver from Radboudumc has launched the mission “Lifelong Vision.” With an award of 22 million euros from the NWO Gravity program of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (VWS), this project aims to develop revolutionary treatments for blindness.

Blindness ranks among the top 15 most disabling conditions and affects both young and old. The project focuses on Inherited Retinal Disease (IRD), including Retinitis Pigmentosa and Usher Syndrome. In the Lifelong Vision project, scientists in the fields of molecular biology, regenerative medicine, epidemiology, and artificial intelligence will join forces to find patient-centered solutions for blindness.

Knowledge, innovation, and answers to questions.
So, what exactly will the Lifelong Vision project bring? It won’t deliver direct mutation- or gene-specific treatments for individual retinal diseases like Usher Syndrome, but it will provide answers to overarching questions:

Can we revive lost vision and photoreceptors (regeneration)? Can we use AI and 3D bio-printing to print and implant new cells? Can we efficiently and effectively correct hereditary errors? Can we deliver genetic therapies to the retina more efficiently? These are long-term projects with a high risk of disappointing outcomes.

For the development of personalized therapies (for example, for USH2A, 2C, and 1F), subsidies from Stichting Ushersyndroom, Uitzicht, ZonMW, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and other funds are still essential. The Lifelong Vision project will serve as an umbrella under which these specific projects will be linked. Knowledge from Lifelong Vision will be used to make treatments for Usher Syndrome more effective, specific, and safer. The involved researchers in the consortium could never have gained this very specific knowledge and insights without this special subsidy of 22 million.

Gene-editing: precision in gene repair
A crucial part of the Lifelong Vision project is the development of genetic therapies. Researchers will focus on accurately repairing errors in genes, rather than replacing entire genes. This precision approach could be a promising step forward in treating vision problems caused by genetic abnormalities.

Artificial Intelligence: customized treatments
To ensure that the right patients receive the right treatment at the right time, artificial intelligence (AI) will also be developed. These AI systems will help identify suitable candidates for the therapies developed in this project.

Protection of eye cells and cell therapy: inspired by zebrafish
Additionally, researchers are looking into how to protect cells in the eye. Extensive research has already been done on why a cell in the eye with a genetic defect dies. This provides clues on how to keep cells alive, for example, with a special cocktail of proteins that help the cells. Unlike humans, zebrafish have the ability to regenerate dead cells in their retina. This process is also known as regeneration. By carefully studying and better understanding this process in zebrafish, scientists hope to gain new insights that will help to activate the regeneration process in humans (regenerative therapy). Erwin van Wijk, a researcher at Radboudumc, is involved in this research, with zebrafish models for Usher Syndrome being central.

Advanced bio-printing: a new retina
Another innovative development within Lifelong Vision is the use of advanced bio-printing technology to produce a new retina. By layering cells on top of each other, researchers aim to create a retina that is compatible with the human eye and can integrate with the choroid.

“With investments like these, we ensure that we remain at the forefront of the scientific world in the Netherlands. This brings important new insights and innovations that we all benefit from. I am proud that we have such scientific talent in our own country. That is not self-evident. Really something to cherish.”
Robbert Dijkgraaf (Minister of Education, Culture and Science)

The Lifelong Vision Consortium
Eight research institutions are participating in the Lifelong Vision project. The project is led by Caroline Klaver of Radboudumc. Other principal investigators include Rob Collin and Ronald Roepman from Radboudumc, Camiel Boon and Arthur Bergen from Amsterdam UMC, and Clarisa Sánchez from the UvA.

About Gravity
The Gravity program encourages excellent research in the Netherlands. The program is intended for scientific consortia conducting innovative and influential research within their field. The goal is to stimulate research programs to achieve breakthroughs of international significance.

Amsterdam UMC