Fish have the special ability to regenerate injuries to the retina at a cellular level. Scientists from Heidelberg University’s Centre for Organismal Studies, or COS, have discovered as to how the regeneration process starts by studying the Medaka fish. There is one genetic factor that triggers two steps for this process to occur. The two steps are cell division and differentiation of progenitors into new and different cell types. Stem cells have been a huge topic as of late in the medical world. Stem cells can be used to correct faults in the body. However, we have not yet been able to actually figure out how to perfect this system. One-day scientists hope that we will actually be able to use stem cells to help repair various injuries. In a study, researchers looked into the retina of fish and found that they can completely repair injuries to the retinal nerve cells. There are special glia cells that act like stem cells. Both fish and humans have these cells in their eyes. These cells are also called Muller cells. Professor Wittbrodt of COS explored if these cells could be activated and what would stimulate the regeneration process. A gene called Atoh7 is responsible for cell differentiation and is triggered by a single genetic factor. There are several steps that go into the regeneration process of a fish’s eye. The glia cells first start to proliferate. “First the Müller cells near the injury start to proliferate. The resultant neuronal clusters contain the progenitor cells for the cell types of the retina. In the last step, these progenitors differentiate and turn into the neuronal retinal cells to be restored”. These cells supposedly show signs of being able to repair any injuries. The Atoh7 gene is the big factor, which fulfills two functions and triggers proliferation and differentiation into various retinal cell types. Scientists hope that one day we will be able to decode this ability in humans.
Regeneration is a very interesting and unique ability that various species possess. By studying these species more and more I believe that one day we will be able to figure out a way to possess this ability in humans. Being able to cure someone’s blindness would be a miracle. Hopefully one day it will only take one simple surgery for someone to repair their damaged retinal cells. I think more research and funding should go into fully understanding the regeneration process.