Unlike their cousins, rods and cones, newly discovered retinal cells don’t aid sight in a traditional sense. Instead, they constrict the eye’s pupil and set the body’s circadian clock. But new research from Brown University – where the photoreceptors were discovered by David Berson and colleagues – shows that these cells are sensitive to lighting conditions in a manner similar to rods and cones. Results appear in Neuron.
A complementary system in the eye
Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells – ipRGCs – shown in this lab image of cell bodies and their dendrites from the eye of a mouse, constrict the pupil and give the brain information about circadian rhythms. Image: David Berson/Brown University
A new retinal photoreceptor adjusts its sensitivity in different lighting conditions, according to scientists at Brown University, where the rare eye cells were discovered.
The results, published in Neuron, are a surprise. Though rods and cones, their biological cousins in the retina, clearly adjust to light levels, these new cells – intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs – were assumed not to adapt this way. Still, the adaptation process in ipRGCs is weaker and slower than it is in rods and cones.
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