New Growth in Old Eyes

Aug 24, 2006

Nerve cells in the retinas of elderly mice show an unexpected and purposeful burst of growth late in life, according to researchers at UC Davis.

"Mostly, the older you are, the more neurons shrivel up and die. This gives us a more optimistic view of aging," said Leo Chalupa, professor ophthalmology and neurobiology, chair of neurobiology, physiology and behavior at UC Davis, and senior author on the paper, which was published online Aug. 8 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the U.S.A.

The nerves of the eye are really a part of the brain, Chalupa said, so this discovery means that it might be possible to encourage other parts of the aging brain to grow back. The group has preliminary evidence that the same process takes place in the eyes of elderly humans.

The nerve cells, or neurons, in the retina form a layer over another layer containing the light-sensitive cells. The neurons collect signals from the light-sensitive layer and relay them back to the brain.

Lauren Liets, a researcher in Chalupa's laboratory, noticed that in mice more than a year old -- roughly 70 to 80 years old in human terms -- the neurons sprouted tendrils into the photoreceptor layer, and the older the mice, the more growth took place.

At the same time, the photoreceptor cells are shrinking and pulling back, so the neurons appear to be following them, perhaps compensating for those effects, said Chalupa.

Similar sprouting occurs in damaged or detached retinas, Liets said. But this is the first time such an effect has been seen in the normal, aging eye, she said.

Other members of the research group were Kasra Eliasieh and Deborah A. van der List. The work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and a medical fellowship to Eliasieh from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Source: UC Davis

Explore further: COPD patient returns to active lifestyle thanks to pulmonary rehabilitation

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using carbon to control the light

Mar 06, 2014

(Phys.org) —The flip of a light switch – a nano-scale light switch – may some day dramatically boost the speed of data transmission, from streaming movies to accelerating the most data-intense computation. ...

Unlocking the brain's secrets using sound

Jan 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —The brain is a reclusive organ. Neurons the cells that make up the brain, nerves, and spinal cord communicate with each other using electrical pulses known as action potentials, but their interactions are complicated ...

Experiment explores innate visual behavior in mice

Oct 10, 2013

When you're a tiny mouse in the wild, spotting aerial predators—like hawks and owls—is essential to your survival. But once you see an owl, how is this visual cue processed into a behavior that helps you ...

Recommended for you

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but ...

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

1 hour ago

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...