Reconstruction of eye tissue gives new insight into outer retina

December 02, 2020

A new study by scientists at the University of Southampton has made a breakthrough that could help the search for treatments against age related sight loss.

With an aging society, conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are becoming more frequent, affecting around 300 new patients every week in the UK. AMD and similar conditions currently have no effective treatments.

In this new study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers used a newly developed imaging technique called serial block face scanning electron microscopy, to produce a digital reconstruction of eye tissues from the outer retina, at very high resolution. This is the first time this technology has been used to fully reconstruct cells from the retina and could provide new insights into the causes of irreversible blinding diseases.

The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is located between the neuroretina and the outer blood supply in the eye and plays a critical role in vision by looking after the photoreceptors. Scientists currently do not fully understand the causes of damage to RPE cells that leads to sight loss. The reconstructions produced in this study provides a clear picture of the 3D organisation of the RPE in a healthy eye, which will be a crucial reference point for scientists to look at how RPE cells change with age and in diseased eyes.

The research team, led by Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, a Lecturer in Vision Sciences at the University of Southampton, used serial block face microscopy on the central mouse retina. The process involved a state of the art microscope capturing digital images of hundreds of serial layers of the retina. The team then began the painstaking process of drawing key regions of interest (such as the cell body and the nucleus) in each scanned layer before advanced computer software rendered the images into a full 3D reconstruction.

Dr Ratnayaka said, "We now understand the technical process required to produce such high resolution 3D reconstructions of retinal tissues which is an exciting foundation to carry out further studies into deteriorating cells in the eye. The use of artificial intelligence software will make this process faster in the future".

"Our team was made up of experts in cell biology, imaging, computer science as well as ophthalmologists and shows that advances in modern research requires bringing a broad range of skills together."
-end-
The researchers now hope that further understanding of RPE deterioration can come from using the technique to study mouse models of retinal degeneration as well as well?preserved healthy and diseased human donor eye tissues. The study was funded by the UK Macular Society.

Notes to Editors:

Animal studies were overseen by the institutions' Ethical Research Committee and carried out in accordance with the UK Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act of 1986. Experiments also conformed to the ARVO statement for the Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research. The experimental protocol was approved by the University of Southampton Research Ethics Committee and work carried out under the UK Home Office project licence #P395C9E5F (licence approval date: 4 July 2016).

The study "3D-Reconstructed Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells Provide Insights into the Anatomy of the Outer Retina" has been published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences with DOI https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21218408

University of Southampton

Related Cell Biology Articles from Brightsurf:

Deep learning on cell signaling networks establishes AI for single-cell biology
Researchers at CeMM have developed knowledge-primed neural networks (KPNNs), a new method that combines the power of deep learning with the interpretability of biological network models.

RNA biology provides the key to cell identity and health
Two papers in Genome Research by the FANTOM Consortium have provided new insights into the core regulatory networks governing cell types in different vertebrate species, and the role of RNA as regulators of cell function and identity.

Cell biology: Your number's up!
mRNAs program the synthesis of proteins in cells, and their functional lifetimes are dynamically regulated.

Cell biology -- maintaining mitochondrial resilience
Mitochondria cannot autonomously cope with stress and must instead call on the cell for help.

Cell biology: All in a flash!
Scientists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have developed a tool to eliminate essential proteins from cells with a flash of light.

A biology boost
Assistance during the first years of a biology major leads to higher retention of first-generation students.

Cell-free synthetic biology comes of age
In a review paper published in Nature Reviews Genetics, Professor Michael Jewett explores how cell-free gene expression stands to help the field of synthetic biology dramatically impact society, from the environment to medicine to education.

Scientists develop electrochemical platform for cell-free synthetic biology
Scientists at the University of Toronto (U of T) and Arizona State University (ASU) have developed the first direct gene circuit to electrode interface by combining cell-free synthetic biology with state-of-the-art nanostructured electrodes.

In a first for cell biology, scientists observe ribosome assembly in real time
A team of scientists from Scripps Research and Stanford University has recorded in real time a key step in the assembly of ribosomes -- the complex and evolutionarily ancient 'molecular machines' that make proteins in cells and are essential for all life forms.

Cell biology: Endocannabinoid system may be involved in human testis physiology
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) may be directly involved in the regulation of the physiology of the human testis, including the development of sperm cells, according to a study in tissue samples from 15 patients published in Scientific Reports.

Read More: Cell Biology News and Cell Biology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.