A paper published online on January 10 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine reports that retinal ganglion cells—neurons in the eye—are rescued by immune cells that infiltrate the mouse retina after eye injury.
A group led by Michal Schwartz at the Weizmann Institute detected immune cells called macrophages in the retinas of mice that sustained eye injuries a few days prior. Thanks to their expression of an anti-inflammatory protein, these macrophages dampened injury-induced inflammation and protected the retinal ganglion cells from death. Macrophage arrival also awakened neural progenitor cells that lie dormant in healthy eyes.
Whether these findings can be exploited in new therapies for degenerative eye disorders in humans remains to be explored.