Regenerating Neurons in Eyes

Posted on December 6, 2008  Comments (0)

Regenerating Neurons in Eyes

The retina, which is located in the back of the eye, has an outer layer of cells that detect light and translate it into electrical signals. It also has inner layers, which process the signals and send them to the brain.

In degenerative disorders like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, outer-layer cells, called photoreceptors, break down in the early stages of disease, leading to loss of vision. Extensive research has focused on replacing these cells, in an effort to restore sight. In people with advanced disease or blindness, however, the inner cell layers may also break down or become disorganized and need to be rebuilt, says Rose.

“The outer retina is like the CPU, and the inner retina is like the motherboard,” he says. “If I attach a new CPU to a dead motherboard, it won’t do any good, no matter how great a CPU it is.”

In lower vertebrates like fish and chickens, retinal cells are known to generate new neurons in response to damage, often restoring sight. While mammals do not have the same self-healing capacity, some previous research has suggested that under particular circumstances, mammals’ retinas might be able to generate new neurons.

Related: A Journey Into the Human EyeHow Brain Resolves SightThe Subtly Different Squid Eye3-D Images of Eyes

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