We are able to see thanks to the function of many different cells in the retina that work together. Retinal ganglion cells - the neurons of the retina - are especially important, as they have very long processes, or axons, that bundle together to form the optic nerve that carries visual information to the brain. Like all neurons in the nervous system, retinal ganglion cells are fragile, and when their axons are damaged, it can lead to blindness. In our lab, we work on the molecular mechanisms of axonal regeneration in the optic nerve. In this image of a mouse retina, injection of a virus turned some of the cells green. Viral infection is a powerful tool in neuroscience, because it not only allows detailed structural examination of healthy and damaged neurons, but it also permits us to genetically manipulate the cells to identify factors that might promote neuronal recovery after injury. Since retinal ganglion cells and their axons are a part of central nervous system, our work may potentially gather insights into the mechanisms of regeneration elsewhere in the brain and spinal cord, and thus can be of clinical importance for a variety of nervous system disorders.
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