While inside RGCs, Molecular Photoswitches are dynamic molecules. In the absence of light, they lie dormant in an “off” position. However, in the presence of light, these molecules change shape, conforming to a position that triggers the RGC to signal the brain to the presence of light.
In healthy eyes, light first is converted to electrical signaling in the rods and cones (photoreceptors) before being transmitted (via bipolar cells) to the RGCs and to the visual cortex of the brain. In many inherited retinal diseases including Retinitis Pigmentosa, Choroideremia and Stargardt’s Disease, rods and cones degenerate eliminating their ability to perceive light. However, as RGCs are preserved, they represent an ideal downstream target that can bypass dead photoreceptors to process light and signal the brain.