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Mapping the cells of the retina – greater understanding of which cell types are affected in eye diseases

06 June 2022

A Visionary Map

Maps are one of humanity's most valuable inventions. They help us to explain our world and find our way through it. Scientists have now produced a complete map of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The RPE is a single layer of cells that separates the retina from the rest of the eye, and it has critical roles in eye health and vision. Generated with artificial intelligence software, the map is the first to include every cell in the human RPE. Using their map, the researchers found five types of RPE cells arranged in rings around the retina's centre. These five cell types are affected differently by eye diseases, and by studying them, scientists may be able to design precise treatments for different parts of the retina. Here, we see a dome-shaped lesion beneath the retina. RPE cells (white) are pushed upwards, which damages vision by displacing the retina cells that detect light (pink). Although this type of lesion is found across the retina, it’s less common in RPE cells found between the centre and edge of the retina. This middle region of the retina may be more resistant to damage.

Written by Henry Stennett

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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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