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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2011 Sep 29;52(10):7705-10, 7704. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-8330.

Muller glia, vision-guided ocular growth, retinal stem cells, and a little serendipity: the Cogan lecture.

Author information

  • Department of Neuroscience, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1239, USA. fischer.412@osu.edu


Hypothesis-driven science is expected to result in a continuum of studies and findings along a discrete path. By comparison, serendipity can lead to new directions that branch into different paths. Herein, I describe a diverse series of findings that were motivated by hypotheses, but driven by serendipity. I summarize how investigations into vision-guided ocular growth in the chick eye led to the identification of glucagonergic amacrine cells as key regulators of ocular elongation. Studies designed to assess the impact of the ablation of different types of neurons on vision-guided ocular growth led to the finding of numerous proliferating cells within damaged retinas. These proliferating cells were Müller glia-derived retinal progenitors with a capacity to produce new neurons. Studies designed to investigate Müller glia-derived progenitors led to the identification of a domain of neural stem cells that form a circumferential marginal zone (CMZ) that lines the periphery of the retina. Accelerated ocular growth, caused by visual deprivation, stimulated the proliferation of CMZ progenitors. We formulated a hypothesis that growth-regulating glucagonergic cells may regulate both overall eye size (scleral growth) and the growth of the retina (proliferation of CMZ cells). Subsequent studies identified unusual types of glucagonergic neurons with terminals that ramify within the CMZ; these cells use visual cues to control equatorial ocular growth and the proliferation of CMZ cells. Finally, while studying the signaling pathways that stimulate CMZ and Müller glia-derived progenitors, serendipity led to the discovery of a novel type of glial cell that is scattered across the inner retinal layers.

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