Jeff Gross spent the summers of 2018 and 2019 in the MBL Whitman Center studying regeneration in the visual system of zebrafish, work recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study focuses an an ocular tissue critical for maintaining vision, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE); death of RPE cells leads to blindness. Humans and other mammals are unable to regenerate the RPE, so vision loss is irreversible.
Zebrafish are inherently capable of regenerating different types of tissues, including the RPE, and are therefore useful to understand and identify pro-regenerative pathways. This paper shows that elements of the immune response are critical for RPE regeneration. Knowledge gained using zebrafish can be applied to mammalian systems to try to stimulate RPE regeneration, with the overall goal of mitigating blinding disease in humans.
Gross is a professor, vice chair and director of research, Department of Opthalmology at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Photo: Zebrafish (Danio rerio). Credit: IMP Vienna