Fighting Blindness: The Scripps Research Institute Scientists Bring a Key Protein into Focus

The Scripps Research Institute

6th March 2017

Fighting Blindness: The Scripps Research Institute Scientists Bring a Key Protein into Focus

WRITTEN BY: The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI)

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered how a protein called α2δ4 establishes proper vision. Their research helps explain why mutations in the gene encoding α2δ4 lead to retinal dystrophy, a disease characterised by defective colour vision and night blindness.

To study how this protein supports vision, the researchers modelled retinal dystrophy in mice. Like humans, mice lacking α2δ4 succumbed to the disease and their vision was compromised.

“Much of our work is driven by desire to understand what goes awry in a range of blinding conditions,” explained The Scripps Research Institute  Professor Kirill A. Martemyanov, senior author of the new study. “Now we have found a molecule that plays a key role in allowing photoreceptors to plug into the neural circuit and transmit the light signals they receive to the brain.”

The study was published online recently in the journal “Neuron”.

A Secret Ingredient for Vision

Our vision depends on two types of photoreceptors in the light-sensitive layer of eye called the retina. Rods photoreceptors detect photons at the lowest levels of light and support night vision, and cone photoreceptors sense bright light and discriminate between colours. Both rods and cones must wire into a neural circuit of the retina to send information to the brain.

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This article was originally published on Scripps.edu.

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