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Neurochem Res. 2010 Dec;35(12):2027-34. doi: 10.1007/s11064-010-0273-5. Epub 2010 Oct 7.

Light effects on mitochondrial photosensitizers in relation to retinal degeneration.

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Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Level 6, West Wing, Headley Way, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK.


The retina captures and converts light between 400-760 nm into electrical signals that are sent to the brain by way of the optic nerve and in the process helps to translate these electrical signals into what is known as vision. The same light that allows vision to occur is nevertheless also potentially toxic to retinal cells in certain situations. The shorter wavelengths of light are known to interact with chromophores in photoreceptors and pigment epithelial cells to cause oxidative stress and severe damage. Indeed it is generally accepted that short wavelength light effects is one cause for loss of photoreceptor function in age-related macular degeneration. Recent studies have demonstrated that light may be a contributing factor for the death of retinal ganglion cells in certain situations. Light as impinging on the retina, especially the short wavelength form, affect mitochondrial chromophores and can result in neurone death. Importantly ganglion cell axons within the eye are laden with mitochondria and unlike the outer retina are not protected from short wavelength light by macular pigments. It has therefore been proposed that when ganglion cell function is already compromised, as in glaucoma, then light impinging on their mitochondria might be a contributor to their eventual demise.

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