A professor at UT Arlington will be receiving a research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his research on improved means to implement genetic-based therapies against a sight-deteriorating condition called retinitis pigments.
Dr. Samarendra Mohanty, who teaches physics at UT Arlington, will be awarded a total of $384,269 for two years from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, according to an article on Cision by Kristin Sullivan. Mohanty’s research revolves around an almost infrared high speed laser that transports specific genes that stimulate photosensitive proteins called opsins, found in certain cells. This stimulation lets investigators affect neural activity through the use of light — which is a an approach termed optogenetics.
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Previous methods of delivering these genes made use of a virus, which had the potential to trigger adverse effects. Mohanty’s breakthrough method reduces the risk of an adverse immune response to the treatment and is able to deliver larger genes, when compared to the old technique.
Mohanty’s co-investigator, Digant Dave, who is an associate professor of bioengineering at the same university, said that their new method has a more accurate and precise delivery as well, which makes it all the more suited for a condition like retinitis pigmentosa wherein only the periphery of the retina is affected. Along with furthering their research on this new technique, the investigators are also aiming to explore other methods in stimulating neural activity by using light.