a step forward against blindness

Vision is a complex process that requires the integrity of the many structures that make up the visual pathway. This pathway begins in the eye, which is responsible for capturing vision and transforming this information through super specialized neurons called photoreceptors in the retina. They transmit that information to the brain, which ultimately allows us to perceive our surroundings.

Photoreceptor cells, rods and cones are key to vision and are found in the retina. Rods are responsible for dim light and peripheral vision, and cones are responsible for bright light, color, and high-definition vision. The cells of the retina and the brain communicate through connections called synapses.

When these retinal photoreceptors become diseased, as occurs in many retinal diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, among others, severe visual loss occurs, leading to a significant decline in a person’s quality of life.

a scientific breakthrough

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have enabled retinal cells developed from stem cells to communicate and connect with their neighbors, according to new research recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The synapse obtained is a significant breakthrough for the cells to be used in human trials with degenerative eye disorders.

made by experts retinal organoids (RO) derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), They have the ability to make all the cells of the body. The ultimate goal is to use the cells from these organoids or “laboratory retinas” as “spare parts” for the same types of cells that are destroyed during retinal diseases and other eye pathologies.

According to a press release, the group of researchers was led by david m gam was already able to verify that the diversity of cultured retinal cells is called photoreceptor, They reacted to different wavelengths and intensities of light in the healthy retina. and that once they separate from adjacent cells in their organoids, they can link to their neighbors and form “biological strings” called axon,

next steps

But the road to making these cultured retinas useful for testing in humans is long and complicated. The next important step will be to verify that photoreceptor cells attached to the axon have the ability to integrate with other cell types in the retina and communicate by establishing a synapse.

Synapses enable connections between our neurons, which is an essential requirement for nerve impulses to travel through the “highways” of neural networks. Without them, the human brain would be “disconnected” from the rest of the body.

What was unique about the study was that the scientists were able to demonstrate the presence of synaptic connections, putting these laboratory retinas one step away from being directly tested in humans.

Analysis of the experiment further revealed that the most common retinal cell types that form synapses are photoreceptors, rods and cones, which are destroyed in diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, as well as in certain lesions. The next most common cell type that forms synapses, retinal ganglion cells, degenerate in optic nerve disorders such as glaucoma. As a result, this revolutionary breakthrough could address the leading causes of blindness globally.

By Dr. Betty Giselle Arteaga – MN 112049 – MP 332301, Low Vision Chief, Ophthalmology Service. Teacher Department of the Surgical Clinic of the University Institute. Italian Hospital of Buenos Aires. facebook.com/bettygiselle.arteaga

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