Prof John Flannery

Headshot of John Flannery


Professor Flannery is Professor of Vision Science and Neuroscience in the Department of Molecular Biology in University of California, Berkeley. The expertise of his laboratory group is directed toward developing viral vectors for gene therapy and gene transfer to retinal neurons, epithelia and glia. He and his team study both normal retinal functions as well as disease states to develop rational therapeutics for retinal dystrophies.

He serves on a number of advisory boards in the United States; he is vice chairman for Foundation Fighting Blindness and is on the board of directors for the National Neurovision Research Institute. He is also a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board for Fighting Blindness in Ireland.

Prof. Flannery obtained his BA (1975) and PhD in Neuroscience (1993) at University of California, Santa Barbara and he continued his postdoctoral training at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA. In 1991, Prof. Flannery joined the faculty of the University of Florida and in 1995, he accepted his position at UC Berkeley.


Restoration of high-sensitivity and adapting vision with a cone opsin

Inherited and age-related retinal degenerative diseases cause progressive loss of rod and cone photoreceptors, leading to blindness. Many patients have surviving inner retinal neurons, which are not naturally light-sensitive. These inner retinal neurons can be treated by optogenetic gene therapy to make them sensitive to light. Optogenetic approaches that have been tested to date have been limited by either low light sensitivity or slow response speeds and lack adaptation to changes in ambient light. These tests have also not been shown to restore the ability to recognize or interact with objects. We find that gene delivery of medium wavelength cone opsin to the inner retina can overcome these limitations and supports vision in dim light. Cone opsin enables a blind retinitis pigmentosa mouse to discriminate temporal and spatial light patterns displayed on a standard LCD computer tablet, displays adaption to changes in ambient light, and restores open-field novel object exploration under incidental room light.  We find that Middle wavelength cone opsin provides the speed, sensitivity and adaptation needed to restore patterned vision.

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