Biovision seminar – Dr Cyril Eleftheriou (IIT, Genova)

Dr Cyril Eleftheriou (IIT, Genova) will give a talk on November 19 at 14h00 in room Byron Beige (fifth floor) entitled “Retinal Prosthetic Strategies: From Nanotechnology to Optogenetics”

Abstract: Retinal degeneration following photoreceptor cell death is a common cause for blindness, leading to such disorders as age related macular degeneration (AMD) or retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Under such conditions, the inner retina, responsible for visual signal processing and its transmission to the brain, is somewhat spared, despite some remodeling of the glial and neuronal populations. Retinal prostheses aim to stimulate the remaining inner retina with signals corresponding to the visual scene in the hope that these will be correctly interpreted by the brain. However, the consequences of remodeling associated with retinal degeneration are not permissive to the perfect functional integration of prosthetic devices. Anatomical observations describe a heavily inflamed landscape and severe rewiring whilst electrophysiological observations describe robust spontaneous oscillations as well as a lack of response to visual stimuli. In this presentation, I will describe some of the projects I was involved in to develop new generations of visual prosthetic systems designed to synergise with degeneration induced remodelling. I will also discuss how ectopic photosensitivity may be one of the keys to providing sharper and realer visual perception to blind patients.

Bio: I studied at the University of Manchester (UK) between 2002 and 2007, specializing in Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence (AI). My Master’s project in Manchester was with John Gigg, investigating hippocampal connectivity to the subiculum of anaesthetized rats. After a year as a head-hunter for the oil industry, I went back into science. My PhD was in Evelyne Sernagor’s lab at Newcastle University (2009-2013), where I focused on the interactions between carbon nanotube electrodes and the retina’s ganglion cell layer, with the view of using such electrodes in retinal prostheses. I then joined Prof. Robert Lucas’ lab (2013-2016 University of Manchester, UK), where I contributed to both translational (reversing blindness) and fundamental (influence of melanopsin on retinal processing) research questions. Since 2016, I have been at the IIT in Genova with Fabio Benfenati, investigating methods of modulating visual cortex plasticity in adult animals using transcription-altering optogenetic chimeras. Here, I also kept working on the retina, as the lab is heavily involved in neuro-tech interfaces, in particular retinal prostheses.

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