Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fishy Looking

A zebrafish model of diabetic retinopathy demonstrates ongoing role of progenitor cells in regenerating damaged retinal cells

19 December 2021

Fishy Looking

Eyesight often changes as we age, but those living with diabetes face an added challenge – high blood sugar levels can chip away at cells in the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy and even blindness. Searching for a way to slow or stop the disorder, here scientists use a high-powered microscope to peer into the eye of a zebrafish with a genetic mutation that mimics human diabetes. In among the layers of retinal cells (with their DNA stained blue), the researchers watch as progenitor cells – stem-like cells with the ability to become specialised – react to the damaging sugars. Progenitors destined to become photoreceptors – cells shaped like ‘rods’ and ‘cones’ that are sensitive to light – are able to replenish these vital parts of the retina (the long cells highlighted in green). The aim is to coax similar cells in human eyes to repair or reduce the damage left by diabetic retinopathy.

Written by John Ankers

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