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Zebrafish May Hold Key To Repairing Serious Eye Conditions

BrightFocus-Supported Researchers Take An Important Step In Understanding Retina Regeneration

February 15, 2012
Source: Developmental Cell

Findings: Zebrafish, unlike humans, can regenerate their retinas if they get injured. BrightFocus Foundation supported Dr. Daniel Goldman and colleagues with a National Glaucoma Research grant to study zebrafish for clues towards developing retinal regeneration approaches in humans. The scientists found that when a zebrafish's retina is damaged, a master regulator protein, called HB-EGF, sets in motion a series of changes that cause Müller glia retina cells to become stem cells that then repair the damage.

Significance: Müller glia cells are often left intact in a retina damaged by disease, so these cells are great targets for future therapy.  The next step will be to determine if HB-EGF and associated proteins can stimulate stem cell repair of a mouse's retina. If so, Dr. Goldman's discovery may suggest new strategies for treating glaucoma.



University of Michigan Health System research into the mechanisms by which zebrafish are able to regenerate damaged retinas after injury, suggests new strategies for one day being able to do the same in humans—potentially allowing doctors to slow or reverse conditions like macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Building on previous studies, Daniel Goldman, Ph.D., a professor at U-M's Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute and in the Department of Biological Chemistry, along with postdoctoral fellows Jin Wan and Rajesh Ramachandran, discovered that heparin-binding epidermal-like growth factor (HB-EGF) plays a critical role during retina regeneration. Their findings were published in Developmental Cell.

“We found that this factor is sufficient to activate the whole process,” says Goldman.

When a zebrafish's retina is damaged, HB-EGF is released and sets in motion a series of changes that cause certain cells in the retina known as Muller glia to revert to a stem-cell state from which they can generate new cells and repair the damage. The researchers found that HB-EGF stimulated Muller glia to revert to a stem cell even in fish with uninjured eyes.

The next step, says Goldman, will be to explore if this factor and related pathways can stimulate Muller glia dedifferentiation and stem cell formation in mammals.

Adapted from the University of Michigan

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we take efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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