Nanotubes In the Eye That Help Us See
Researchers find a new structure by which cells in the retina communicate with each other, regulating blood supply to keep vision intact. A new mechanism of blood redistribution that is essential for the proper functioning of the adult retina has just been discovered in vivo by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM).
“For the first time, we have identified a communication structure between cells that is required to coordinate blood supply in the living retina,” said Dr. Adriana Di Polo, a neuroscience professor at Université de Montréal and holder of a Canada Research Chair in glaucoma and age-related neurodegeneration, who supervised the study.
“We already knew that activated retinal areas receive more blood than non-activated ones,” she said, “but until now no one understood how this essential blood delivery was finely regulated.”
The study was conducted on mice by two members of Di Polo’s lab: Dr. Luis Alarcon-Martinez, a postdoctoral fellow, and Deborah Villafranca-Baughman, a PhD student. Both are the first co-authors of this study.
In living animals, as in humans, the retina uses the oxygen and nutrients contained in the blood to fully function. This vital exchange takes place through capillaries, the thinnest blood vessels in all organs of the body. When the blood supply is dramatically reduced or cut off—such as in ischemia or stroke—the retina does not receive the oxygen it needs. In this condition, the cells begin to die and the retina stops working as it should.
The study has been published in Nature.