HyVIS (Hybrid synapse for VISion) is an EU-funded initiative launched with the goal of developing a method to restore sight in people with degenerative eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa. This initiative hopes to do so by restoring the photoreceptors’ light sensitivity using a hybrid synapse (a small space between nerve cells and photoreceptors). The team will create a retinal neuroprosthesis that will act like the original synaptic connections using neuronal functionality that remains in the diseased retina. Researchers will create a channel that can release glutamate (a type of signaling molecule) when it receives an optical stimulus, similar to the normal response due to light stimulation. It will interact with the remaining retinal cells. HyVIS has received $3.39 million and is composed of six European institutions with expertise in material science, chemistry, physics, neuroscience, and medicine.
What this means for Usher syndrome: Vision loss in Usher syndrome is caused by retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This initiative is attempting to develop a therapy for RP. The project will last four years with the final goal of developing a way to restore sight. It is in its early stages, but could potentially offer a way to restore vision in Usher syndrome patients.