UCL News


UCL in the News: Zebrafish could help scientists find a cure for blindness

1 August 2007

Researchers have shown for the first time that the special cells which restore sight in zebrafish can also be found in the human eye.

Dr Astrid Limb [UCL Institute of Ophthalmology] said: "Our findings have enormous potential. They could help in all diseases where the neurons are damaged, which is basically nearly every disease of the eye."

The research centres on the fish's Muller glial cells, which are a type of stem cell - master cells with the ability to turn into different types of cell.

In zebrafish, they heal damage to the retina - the part of the eye that sends messages to the brain - by producing large numbers of healthy retinal cells. …

Working alongside experts from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, Dr Astrid has found a way of tricking the cells to turn into retinal cells and grow in large numbers in the lab. …

The cells, removed from the patient's eye, would be coaxed into turning into retinal cells and into multiplying, before being injected back into the eye. …

Dr Limb said: "Muller cells with stem cell properties could potentially restore sight to someone who is losing or has lost their sight due to diseased or damaged retina.

"Because they are so easy to grow, we could make cell banks and have cell lines available to the general population, subject to typing as with blood transfusions." …

"Our next step is to identify which factor is responsible for blocking the regeneration," said Dr Limb.

"Once we know how this mechanism works, we will be much closer to develop a treatment." …

Fiona Macrae, 'Daily Mail'