Zebrafish Stem Cells and Retina Repair

Your retina is the inside back surface of your eye that contains the light sensitive cells responsible for converting light into neural information. The retina contains millions of cones that provide sharp vision and color perception in bright light along with millions more rods that allow for vision in low light situations.  Issues with the cones and rods in the retina can prevent information from reaching your optic nerve, resulting in a complete loss of vision.

It has long been believed that damaged photoreceptor cells in the retina could not be repaired, but researchers at the University of Alberta have recently discovered that zebrafish stem cells can selectively regenerate damaged rods and cones, and may be the key to returning vision to those with retinal disorders.

Continuing Research

Thus far, researchers have found that zebrafish stem cells can replace damaged cells in many components of human eye sight. The research to date has shown significant success in repairing damaged rods, but most of the tests have been done on nocturnal animals that have millions more rods than cones. It is still unclear as to whether or not these stem cells can be instructed to only replace damaged cones in the cone-dense human retina.

According to the researchers, eyes tend to regenerate the photoreceptor cells that are most prevalent. In humans, this would be cones. Animal studies would suggest that the tissue environment in the human eye would instruct stem cells how to react to cone damage, but the specific gene in zebrafish that activates cone repair has not yet been isolated.

As it stands, there is no cure for blindness, but there are steps that can be taken to slow damage being done by retinal problems. If you notice floaters or flashers, a primary indication of retinal problems, you should contact your ophthalmologist right away.

If you are experiencing any vision disruptions, please visit our eye doctor directory today to find an experienced ophthalmologist in your area.