Retinal dystrophy clues uncovered

Researchers have shed light on a protein that assists night vision

10 Mar 2017 by Selina Powell

Scientists have gained insight into the links between a protein, α2δ4, and retinal dystrophy.

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), in Florida, found that mice lacking α2δ4 developed the disease, which is characterised by defective colour vision and night blindness.

The study, which was published in Neuron found mice failed to navigate a maze in low light conditions without α2δ4.

TSRI research associate, Dr Yuchen Wang, explained to OT that there are two types of photoreceptors in the retina, rods and cones.

“Rods are tuned for dim vision and cones are critical for daylight vision,” he added.

Dr Wang emphasised that α2δ4 and another previously identified molecule, ELFN1, were “two critical puzzle pieces” required for the wiring of rods but not of cones.

“We showed that mice lacking either of the two molecules display a night blindness symptom, while their vision under bright conditions is as good as that of normal mice,” he highlighted.

Future research will focus on whether manipulating α2δ4 and ELFN1 could help photoreceptors stay functional for longer, delaying the onset of degenerative conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration. 

Image credit: Jon Sullivan

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