Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

BPoD is 5

In 2017 we celebrate five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Eat Your Neighbour
30 January 2016

Eat Your Neighbour

In much the same way that Pac-Man chomps through a maze of dots in the classic computer game, cells in the lens of the eye can gobble up their neighbours if they sense they're dying. This cannibal-like tendency, called phagocytosis, prevents debris from dead cells impairing vision by clouding the lens, which is constantly bombarded by destructive ultra-violet (UV) light. Pictured are epithelial cells in a chicken embryo lens eating ‘fake’ dead cells made from latex (green-white dots) that were inserted during a laboratory experiment. Scientists identified a receptor on the epithelial cells that triggered them into action – and also discovered that UV light slowly degrades these receptors, explaining why clouding of the lens, or cataracts, may occur eventually in some people.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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