Bienvenue sur le site de l'université Paris Descartes

INC Open Mind Seminar Series, December 2011 and February 2012

INC Open Mind Seminar Series presents


Professor José-Alain Sahel, Director of The Vision Institute, Paris, France

Title: « From neuroprotection to restoration of the photoreceptor function: a translational approach »


Friday, December 16th, 11:30 - 12:30 

Conference Room R229, 2rd floor

Biomedical Center, Université Paris Descartes

45 rue des Saints-Pères, 75006 Paris


Professor José-Alain Sahel is the Director of The Vision Institute, a Translational UPMC/Inserm/CNRS Research Centre, Paris, France; Professor of Ophthalmology at Pierre and Marie Curie University Medical School, and the Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London. 


In the retinal dystrophies, multiple genetic anomalies leading to photoreceptor degeneration play causative role. Therapeutic strategies targeting directly the genes responsible for the disease are logical and have recently been shown to be effective in one of the forms of Leber congenital amaurosis.

During retinal degeneration progression, it is important to underline that the neural circuits in the inner retina are not destroyed and cone 
photoreceptors are saved for several years despite the lost of their outer segment and their function, from where the concept of “dormant 
cones”. Supposing that the partially persistent neuronal circuits are functional, the preservation and the stimulation of the still present 
retinal neurons open great hopes. Retinal prostheses have been successfully implanted and demonstrated to restore useful vision in 
blind patients by stimulating the residual neuronal circuits in the retina. The expression of channelrhodopsin or halorhodopsin in the 
retinal ganglion and bipolar cells or in the preserved cones restores visual function in animal models of retinal degeneration and in human 
retinas post-mortem.

Innovating high-resolution in vivo noninvasive imagery techniques make it possible to observe the “dormant cones” and to analyze the structure 
of the inner retina, allowing the identification of blind people that may benefit from these therapeutic strategies. Owing to our innovating translational approach, which integrates high-resolution imagery techniques, nanotechnologies applied to retinal prostheses, genetics, optogenetics, and gene therapy, we have an exceptional ensemble of diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic means to fight vision loss 
related to numerous diseases, in particular to currently incurable genetic diseases. Such a translational research implies a strong 
collaboration with industrial and academic partners in fields of expertise such as mathematics, physics, astronomy or bioinformatics, to 
offer patients the best possible diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic solutions.

More about Professor Sahel:

José-Alain Sahel is the Director of The Vision Institute, a Translational UPMC/Inserm/CNRS Research Centre, Paris, France; Professor of Ophthalmology at Pierre and Marie Curie University Medical School, and the Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London. He chairs a department of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation and coordinates the Ophthalmology Clinical Investigation Centre and the National Reference Centre for Retinal Dystrophies.

He graduated from Paris University Medical School, performed his residency in Ophthalmology in Paris and Strasbourg, and performed a research fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard medical School and a visiting scholarship at Harvard Biological laboratories.

Prior to his appointment in Paris, Jose Sahel was a Visiting Lecturer at Harvard Medical School, Visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Professor of Ophthalmology at Louis Pasteur University, Strasbourg, where he directed also the Eye Pathology laboratory.

Jose Sahel founded in 1992 the Laboratory of Retinal Cellular and Molecular Pathophysiology as a site for translational research on the mechanisms of retinal cell degeneration, with the aim of identifying therapeutic clues. This lab, at the core of the present Vision Institute (now 200 co-workers) has, among several achievements, developed innovative therapies for protecting retinal photoreceptors, and identified a key mechanism and family of proteins involved in the maintenance of cone-mediated central and light-adapted vision. Besides research on developmental biology, functional genomics, physiology and therapeutics (e.g. stem cells, gene therapy, pharmacology, and artificial retina), the development of high resolution in vivo cellular imaging, relevant biomarkers and disease models is conducted in an environment adductive to industrial partnerships. The author of more than 200 papers in specialty and general audience peer-reviewed journals, he co-authored several patents. Since FP 5, he has coordinated large-scale European Research programs on retinal functional genomics, neuroprotection, ageing, and now therapy, as well as a network of over 50 European clinical trial centres on retinal diseases.

The member or chair of several scientific boards (Inserm, University, Foundation Fighting Blindness, Paris City, Alcon Research Institute,...) he also advises several biotechs and larger companies. He co-founded a spin-off of his laboratory, Fovea Pharmaceuticals in 2005, now the Ophthalmology Division of Sanofi Aventis. He received several awards for his teams’ achievements (e.g. Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) Trustee Award, Grand Prix NRJ-Neurosciences-Institut de France, Alcon Research Institute Award for Excellence in Vision Research, Foundation Altran Innovation Award, Honoris Causa Doctorate of the University of Geneva, Switzerland...). Since 2008, he is Honorary Member of the D.O.G., Chevalier des Ordres Nationaux du Mérite et de la Légion d’Honneur, Member of Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis, Member of the Academy of Sciences, Institut de France, Human Biology and Medical Sciences section.


INC Open Mind Seminar Series presents:

Professor Takao Hensh, Professor of Neurology and Senior Research Associate in Neurology at the Childrens Hospital Boston

Title: "Shaping neural circuits by early experience" (abstract coming soon)


Friday, February 10th 2012, 11.30 – 12.30

Conference room R229, 2nd floor

Centre Biomédical des Saints Pères

45 rue des Sts Pères, 75006 Paris


Professor Takao Hensch received his PhD from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) after training at Harvard, University of Tokyo (MPH) and the Max-Planck Institut (Fulbright Fellow). He is a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from both the Japanese (2001 Tsukahara Prize) and US (2005) Society for Neuroscience.

Research Overview

Takao Hensch focuses on how neuronal circuits in the brain are shaped by experience during 'critical periods' in early postnatal life. Integrating molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience, primarily in the developing visual cortex, Hensch has revealed specific, local inhibitory (GABAergic) circuits that trigger a proteolytic reorganization of anatomical connections, which ultimately consolidate plasticity. Inappropriate excitatory-inhibitory balance may underlie devastating developmental brain disorders, such as epilepsy and autism. Translational research at Children's Hospital and the successful reactivation of plasticity in adulthood may lead to novel strategies for recovery of function, therapy and lifelong learning.