Blinding eye diseases like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma are accompanied by the death of neurons in the retina that leads to blindness.
Experts at University of Michigan Medical School are investigating how cells called Muller glia, responsible for regenerating damaged zebrafish retinas, acquire stem cell properties. They hope to eventually develop techniques to encourage human retinas to regenerate.
In a new study, the team discovered a Vegf-Notch signaling system that is activated in injured retina and connects Muller glia with immune cells and cells lining blood vessels. Importantly, they found that each of these cell types contributes to the gene expression changes necessary for Muller glia reprogramming and acquisition of stem cell properties.