15:58 13 March 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that zebrafish eyes contain a chemical that could reverse age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss around the world.
The researchers have found that a drop in GABA triggers the repair process in zebrafish, which could take place even before the damage occurs.
Study author Professor James Patton said: 'It might be possible to stimulate human retinas to repair themselves by treating them with a GABA inhibitor.
'The prevailing belief has been the regeneration process in fish retinas is triggered by secreted growth factors.
'But our results indicate the neurotransmitter GABA might initiate the process instead.
'All the regeneration models assume a retina must be seriously damaged before regeneration takes place, but our studies indicate GABA can induce this process even in undamaged retinas.'
The retina of zebrafish contains adult stem cells called Muller glia, which play a key role in regeneration. When triggered, these cells begin to multiple and turn into replacements for the damaged retinal cells. Muller glia cells can also be found in the retinas of humans but don’t regenerate.