Does the Zebrafish hold clues to treating chronic eye diseases?
One of the main difficulties of treating eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, is the damage to the nerve cells as a result of the disease. Treatments have only been good at halting a disease’s process. The problem is that humans do not generate nerve cells. Getting nerve cells to regenerate has been difficult.
The Zebrafish is different. It can regenerate nerve cells. Following injury, the zebrafish does this using a particular signalling molecular pathway. The cells that have the ability to become stem cells. These cells have the potential to form new nerve cells known as the Muller glial cells.
One study group from Yale University School of Medicine have published results looking at how the Zebrafish activates Muller glial cells. They managed to replicate this using a gene insertion technique in the retina of an adult mouse. (Read the full article here)
They showed that they could activate Muller glial cells in an adult mouse without the need for injury. This study paves the way for potential nerve cell regeneration.
The hope is to take this gene insertion technique and use it in humans. Allowing us to regenerate nerve cells damaged by eye disease.
There are many examples of researchers taking clues from other animals. Researchers replicate the cues in humans to treat disease. I believe that taking clues from nature has the potential to treat many human diseases. We are making slow but steady progress towards reaching that goal.