Scientists Have Revived Light-Sensing Cells in Human Eyes after Death

By: | May 23rd, 2022

Scientists successfully revived light-sensing neuron cells in the eyes of a donor a few hours after the donor’s death. This groundbreaking study could alter brain and vision research.

For investigating how nerve cells surrender to a lack of oxygen, researchers measured activity in mouse and human retinal cells soon after their death.

Earlier experiments signify that oxygen deprivation leads to photoreceptors’ loss of communication with other cells in the retina.

However, in this study, researchers were able to revive light-sensing neuron cells’ ability to communicate hours later with some tweaks to the tissue’s environment.

For this study, Anne Hanneken, Associate Professor at Scripps Research, managed to procure organ donor eyes in less than 20 minutes after death. The eyes were placed in a transportation unit to restore oxygenation and other nutrients to the organ donor eyes.

Then the researchers stimulated the retina with light and measured the electrical activity of the cells. They found that the postmortem retinas were emitting specific electrical signals, known as b-waves. These waves are also seen in living retinas. These waves specify the communication between different layers of macular cells that allow us to see.

Lead author Fatima Abbas, said, “We were able to wake up photoreceptor cells in the human macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for our central vision and our ability to see fine detail and colour.”

“In eyes obtained up to five hours after an organ donor’s death, these cells responded to bright light, coloured lights, and even very dim flashes of light.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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