Eye’s recycling process key to seeing color, bright light

By Jim Dryden
As many of us learned in high school science class, the retina’s rods and cones allow us to see. Rods are for night vision, and cones operate in bright light and allow us to distinguish colors. But although scientists have an idea of what makes rods perform and flourish, they’ve been somewhat in the dark about what keeps cones working and thriving.
Researchers atWashington University School of Medicine in St. Louis believe they’re now closer to the answer and that their findings may one day help preserve vision in patients with age-related macular degeneration and other retinal diseases.
They’ve identified in cone cells a cellular recycling process called autophagy that the cells need to function and, in some cases, survive. The researchers believe that if the recycling process can be activated with drugs, the approach may be used to treat or prevent some retinal diseases.
“If we can stimulate this pathway with drugs, we may be able to preserve vision in people with degenerative retinal diseases,” said senior investigator Thomas A. Ferguson, PhD, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences. “The idea would be to stimulate the autophagy process and give cone cells more energy so that they could stay alive for as long as possible.”
The study is published online in the journal Autophagy.
Ferguson explained that the autophagy process functions in two ways in cone cells.
“It helps cells survive in stressful situations, but it also functions at a baseline level,” he said. “Proteins and organelles in the cell get old, and they have to be removed. Autophagy is the process that removes them so the cell can continue to function.”………
read more: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/Eyes-recycling-process-key-to-seeing-color-bright-light.aspx
source: Washington University in St. Louis