Minute powerhouses within our cells, mitochondria supply us with energy for chemical reactions. Unsurprisingly, any problems with our mitochondria have devastating effects around the body, including progressive blindness. Mitochondrial failure leads to oxidative stress, an imbalance between the amount of harmful reactive oxygen species produced by our cells, and their ability to cope with them. This damages the cells in our eyes, but mitochondrial defects can also impact vision in another way: they allow the toxic build-up of a protein named rhodopsin in the photoreceptors, the cells that respond to light. Pictured, in green, are the photoreceptors of a fruit fly; cells with healthy mitochondria are highlighted in blue, while the accumulation of rhodopsin in other cells is shown in yellow. A better understanding of the multiple ways in which mitochondrial disorders can trigger blindness will help design new treatments, effectively addressing the specific cause of each condition.
The 21st to the 27th of September is National Eye Health Week in the UK.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
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