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Zebrafish may hold the answer to repairing damaged retinas and returning eyesight to people

Date:
January 31, 2013
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Zebrafish, the staple of genetic research, may hold the answer to repairing damaged retinas and returning eyesight to people. Researchers have discovered that a zebrafish's stem cells can selectively regenerate damaged photoreceptor cells.

Regeneration of UV cones following prodrug cell ablation. Regenerating UV cones were observed in larvae 5 days after MTZ treatment. Co-localization of these UV cone markers with BrdU detection indicated that the UV cones were recently proliferating. The right-most cell (A–C) is double labelled for BrdU and UV opsin (mCherry) (filled arrow with red outline; has not yet differentiated to a cone morphology). Other UV cones have begun to reappear (empty red arrows), presumably outside of the window of BrdU application. Other BrdU-positive photoreceptors are detectable (filled arrows), likely representing rods, nascent UV cones, or UV cones not expressing the transgene. One week after MTZ ablation, the regeneration of morphologically mature cones was observed (E–H). BrdU+ cells co-labelled with UV cone mCherry expression (E–G; arrow).
Credit: Brittany Fraser, Michθle G. DuVal, Hao Wang, W. Ted Allison. Regeneration of Cone Photoreceptors when Cell Ablation Is Primarily Restricted to a Particular Cone Subtype. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e55410 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055410

Zebrafish, the staple of genetic research, may hold the answer to repairing damaged retinas and returning eye-sight to people.

University of Alberta researchers discovered that a zebrafish's stem cells can selectively regenerate damaged photoreceptor cells.

Lead U of A researcher Ted Allison says that for some time geneticists have known that unlike humans, stem cells in zebrafish can replace damaged cells involved in many components of eyesight. Rods and cones are the most important photoreceptors. In humans, rods provide us with night vision while cones give us a full colour look at the world during the day-time.

What was not known says Allison was whether stem cells could be instructed to only replace the cones in its retina. This could have important implications for human eyesight.

"This is the first time in an animal research model that stem cells have only repaired damaged cones," said Allison. "For people with damaged eyesight repairing the cones is most important because it would restore day-time colour vision.

The researchers say that to date almost all success in regenerating photoreceptor cells has been limited to rods not cones. Most of these previous experiments were conducted on nocturnal rodents, animals that require good night vision so they have far more rods than cones.

"This shows us that when cones die in a cone-rich retina, it is primarily cones that regenerate," said Allison. "This suggests the tissue environment provides cues to instruct stem cell how to react."

The researchers say this shows some hope for stem cell therapy that could regenerate damaged cones in people, especially in the cone-rich regions of the retina that provide daytime/colour vision.

Allison says the next step for his team is to identify the particular gene in zebrafish gene that activates repair of damaged cones.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brittany Fraser, Michθle G. DuVal, Hao Wang, W. Ted Allison. Regeneration of Cone Photoreceptors when Cell Ablation Is Primarily Restricted to a Particular Cone Subtype. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e55410 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055410

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Zebrafish may hold the answer to repairing damaged retinas and returning eyesight to people." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121308.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2013, January 31). Zebrafish may hold the answer to repairing damaged retinas and returning eyesight to people. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121308.htm
University of Alberta. "Zebrafish may hold the answer to repairing damaged retinas and returning eyesight to people." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121308.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

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