The aim of the NDC initiative has been to use the tools of nanoscience to develop new approaches to the treatment of human disease. We have developed nanoscopic chemical photoswitches that enable the remote control ofthe function of signaling proteins in cells using light. We apply these to the restoration of vision to animal models of blinding diseases that lead to loss ofthe photoreceptor cells ofthe retina and to the treatment of pain.
Our overall goals are to develop new optogenetic tools, which sensitize to light the activity of signaling proteins and the cells in which they are expressed. We will employ these remote controls for basic research into understanding and manipulating the mast cell secretion in response to antigens and allergens (which trigger the inflammatory response), fluid absorption across the retinal pigment epithelium (which plays a role in cystoid macular edema), as well as efforts to re-engineer neurons for cell replacement therapy for models of CNS neurodegeneration. We have already made significant progress in two other directions, which represent our major preclinical work, namely efforts toward: a) the treatment of pain and the analysis of pain circuits, and b) the restoration of vision in retinal pathologies that lead to loss of photoreceptors and blindness.