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Zebrafish & eye development

New zebrafish research by EARA member institutions has shed light on how eyes are formed, in turn providing key insights into understanding organ formation and where it can go wrong in different disorders.

A study at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), Portugal, and Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), Germany, and published in Nature, identified a new mechanism used by zebrafish embryos to grow the retina – a key part of the eye responsible for vision.

The researchers studied the retinas of the embryos, as well as lab-grown retina organoids, to find that the development of the retina involves the movement of neurons in the eye’s photoreceptor cells that detect light. This ‘makes room’ for other cells to divide and contribute to the retina’s formation.

Mauricio Rocha-Martins at IGC and MPI-CBG said: “It highlights that neuronal migration.. can also play a direct role in the co-ordination of organ development.”

Because defects in this movement of neurons has been linked to brain malformations in people, the research may help to understand the causes of such disorders more fully – see also this recent article on zebrafish in the advancement of stroke research by EARA member the University of Manchester, UK.

Meanwhile, in a study at KU Leuven and Université Libre de Bruxelles, both Belgium, scientists looked at how adult zebrafish can regenerate their retinal neurons using a ‘microfluidic’ approach (pumping liquid through a chip) that allowed the neurons to be studied extensively in the lab.

The system may aid the discovery of new targets for promoting neuronal repair in people, the team wrote.


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