The ability of zebrafish to regenerate damaged retina after injury paves way for new methods to reverse or slow conditions like macular degeneration and glaucoma, say researchers.
Building on previous studies, Daniel Goldman 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 today in Developmental Cell.
"We found that this factor is sufficient to activate the whole process," Newswise quoted Goldman as saying.
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.