Sunday, March 12, 2017

I Can See Clearly Now the GABA is Almost Gone! - How Zebrafish Recover From Blindness

A recent study funded by the National Eye Institute found a link between the neurotransmitter GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, and recovery from blindness in zebrafish.  For some time now, scientists were aware of the zebrafish's ability to recover from loss of vision that would normally blind humans permanently.  This is due to the zebrafish having a miraculous ability to regenerate cells in the retina.  Prior studies showed that dying retinal cells produced signals to trigger Muller glia, which revert back to an undifferentiated state and divide.into new cells.  Studies in mice on the brain and pancreas indicated that GABA could play a role in the regeneration process, where low levels signaled stem cells to  divide.  The researchers of the current study, therefore, hypothesized that GABA in zebrafish could be a factor in the regeneration of retinal cells.  To test their theory they injected zebrafish with GABA inhibitors.  They found that these fish responded with retinal cell regeneration.  Fish with retinal damage that were given high levels of GABA, on the other hand, displayed little to no regeneration.  These findings clearly support the hypothesis that GABA plays a very important roll in the regeneration of new cells.

I found this article interesting because I often joke about how I'm going blind because my vision is so poor.  But on a serious note I think the findings in this study could be very significant for finding cures to diseases in humans that affect vision, and it could lead to new treatments to cure blindness.  It is also the first study to report these kind of results, so with more experiments in the future it would be fascinating to see what else researchers find out about the subject.

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