The Lowy Medical Research Institute is helping to fund a study that will map intercellular connections in the retina. The retina is composed of several different cell types, including neurons, glia, and blood vessels. The retina has been studied at a sub-cellular level using electron microscopy, but these subcelluar snapshots do not provide a clear picture as to how the cells in the retina are interconnected.
Using technology that was developed to study how cells are interconnected in the brain, Dr. Dowling will be creating three-dimensional pictures of cells in the retina to show how they are interconnected. This is done using a machine that automatically cuts sections of retina for imaging by electron microscopy. The sections are imaged, and then computer software renders the images into a three-dimensional picture of many cells, together. To image just a small area of the retina, just 1.5 mm x 3 mm, will require cutting and imaging 10,000 sections.
LMRI is pleased to support this research. Dr. Dowling’s experiments should lead to a better understanding of what is unique about the MacTel zone. This information could provide clues as to why this area of the retina is particularly susceptible to disease.