This image of ganglion cells, Müller cells and starburst amacrine cells in the human retina is from a patient suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This disease this patient suffered from slowly causes people affected with this disease to go blind and is a constant reminder to me of why we engage in our research.
For some, this is a pretty, though abstract image created through a set of technologies called computational molecular phenotyping (CMP). The colors in this image come from antibodies labeling taurine, glutamine and glutamate, all small molecular species that reveal metabolic states in these tissues.
For us, these images reveal variation in cell types as well as abnormalities in other kinds of cells that presage retinal stress and the cellular responses that alter the retina in ways that both cause blindness and make it difficult to rescue vision loss. We also see the beginnings of changes in the circuitry of the retina that forever will alter the way that diseased retinas process information.
Image courtesy of Bryan William Jones, Ph.D. and originally appeared here.
This paper by Vazquez-Chona FR, Swan A, Ferrell WD, Jiang L, Baehr W, Chien WM, Fero M, Marc RE and Levine EM addresses a long standing issue in the field of neuroscience: is the reactive phenotype of glial cells in and of itself detrimental to neural survival or function?