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Exp Neurol. 1992 Jan;115(1):87-94.

Photoreceptor transplantation: anatomic, electrophysiologic, and behavioral evidence for the functional reconstruction of retinas lacking photoreceptors.

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Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.


We have investigated the possibility of using transplantation of immature or mature rodent photoreceptors as well as mature human photoreceptors to reconstruct retinas in which photoreceptor degeneration is either inherited or environmentally induced. To this end, we have devised methods for isolating and transplanting the outer nuclear layer (ONL) (e.g., the photoreceptor layer) to the subretinal space of mature rodents. In addition we found that if portions of the inner retina are transplanted along with the intact photoreceptor sheet, photoreceptor organization is better maintained. In ultrastructural studies of the reconstructed retina an outer plexiform-like layer (OPL) is visible at the interface of the transplanted ONL and the host inner nuclear layer, with invaginating ribbon synapses characteristic of those formed by rod photoreceptors evident within this OPL. Ribbon synapses are found only rarely in unreconstructed retina. These results suggest that synaptic connections between transplanted photoreceptors and host cells may be made. Evidence for the potential recovery of function following photoreceptor transplantation is found in visually evoked cortical responses and behavioral responses (pupillary reflex) to light stimulation of the reconstructed eye. These findings suggest the possibility that neural transplantation can reconstruct a sensory end organ--in this case the retina--to restore evoked activity and an appropriate behavioral response to sensory stimulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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