Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Molecular Target for Preventing Photoreceptor Cell Death

Technology #5053

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David N. Zacks
Managed By
Tiefei Dong
Senior Licensing Specialist, Life Sciences 734-763-5332
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending

Blindness resulting from photoreceptor cell death

Blindness and severe vision loss resulting from injury or diseases affects approximately 30 million people worldwide. Retinal detachment is a condition that can lead to vision loss and blindness and it has a lifetime risk of 1 in 300 in normal individuals. Retinal detachment can occur as a result of eye injury, as well other conditions as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Photoreceptor cell death is a major consequence of retinal detachment, and is the cause of vision loss and blindness. Photoreceptors are the cells within the retina that capture light image and convert it to a neuronal signal. Although there are treatments for some of the diseases that result in photoreceptor cell death, there is currently no way to prevent the death of the photoreceptor.

Protecting photoreceptor cells from death in retinal detachment to prevent blindness

Researchers at the University of Michigan identified a novel pathway that regulates photoreceptor cell death. Fas apoptosis inhibitory molecule 2 (Faim2) has been shown to protect photoreceptor cells from apoptosis during the period of retinal detachment. Faim2 was initially identified as overexpressed in retinal detachment animal model using microarray analysis. Upstream signaling molecule ERK kinase has been shown to control the level of expression of Faim2 in vitro by using pharmacological inhibitors and siRNA approaches. Therefore, modulation of ERK and/or Faim2 can be used as therapeutic targets for preventing photoreceptor cell death.

Applications and Advantages


  • New target for prevention of photoreceptor cell death
  • Retinal detachment due to injury
  • Macular degeneration
  • Diabetic retinopathy


  • No current treatments to prevent photoreceptor cell death
  • Novel target for many eye-related diseases