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Could a blind eye regenerate? - David Davila

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We tend to think of blindness as something you're born with, but with certain genetic diseases, it can actually develop when you’re a kid, or even when you’re an adult. But could blind eyes possibly regenerate? David Davila explains how the zebrafish’s amazing regenerative retinas are causing scientists to investigate that very question.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator David Davila
  • Director Eli Enigenburg
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
To learn more about the science of this lesson and this important study, check out this journal article.

An important part of the lesson is the transformation of the muller glia from very specific type of cell (a glial cell) to a “progenitor cell”. Progenitor cells can become many different kinds of cells, but not all types of cells. This is different from stem cells, which truly can become any kind of cell in our body. This is why in the video, we take great care to say that muller glia become more like stem cells – yes, they revert into a kind of cell that can turn into photoreceptors and other types of cells, but they are not stem cells in that they can't turn into any kind of cell. To learn more about photoreceptors watch this Khan Academy video. Can you name the types of photoreceptors found in the mammalian eye?

The importance in this distinction lies in the fact that once Muller glia transform into progenitor cells and divides, the resulting cells can indeed turn into different types of cells found in the retina – not just photoreceptors. This shows just how much potential this research has for treatments of the retina: treating retinas with glutamate or aminoadipate may be the first step in replacing cells in any part of the mammalian retina.

What characteristics make zebrafish a great study organism? Read here and find out more or check out this Animals in Research: Zebrafish article from the University of Melbourne. This video from the National Institute of Health details the importance of zebrafish to the understanding of human development! Watch and find out more about this hearty little fish that just might be in your fish tank right now! Another future direction for this research is finding out how functional these new photoreceptors are. We know that in the zebrafish, the new photoreceptors rewire themselves into the neurons of the retina, but in the mouse retina will these new photoreceptors rewire themselves, or will we need to discover another trigger required for photoreceptors to make connections with the rest of the retina? Interested in the zebrafish and photoreceptors studies? Click on this article from Harvard Medical School. Once we discover how to completely integrate the new photoreceptors coming from the Muller glia, scientists can start work in testing this treatment on mouse models that have the symptoms of Usher's Syndrome and Retinitis Pigmentosa, and start moving towards a treatment for human patients.

Want to learn more about the human eye? Watch these TED Ed videos:

How we see color: Colm Kelleher
What are those floaty things in your eye?: Michael Mauser
The evolution of the human eye: Joshua Harvey
Why do we cry? The three types of tears: Alex Gendler

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator David Davila
  • Director Eli Enigenburg
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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