Blood Shot Like all of our healthy tissues, our eyes are…

Blood Shot

Like all of our healthy tissues, our eyes are riddled with blood vessels – vascular networks which supply valuable chemicals to our peepers. But a condition called iris neovascularisation (INV) can cause vessel overgrowth, leading to rubeosis iridis and a type of glaucoma. Here two techniques investigate a promising treatment for INV in the eye of a 79-year old man – injections which aim to control a protein called VEGF inside eye cells, taming blood vessel growth. On the top, patterns of blood flow around the iris (seen in red on the cross-section on the right) are used to map out the blood vessel network using a computer algorithm (left). Underneath, the VEGF treatment (bottom) has clearly reduced the INV. Further developments may make these techniques more sensitive, allowing ophthalmologists to detect and treat eye problems earlier in life.

Written by John Ankers

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Laying Down Roots The bigger the tree above ground, the more…

Laying Down Roots

The bigger the tree above ground, the more extensive its roots below ground. Swap trees for teeth and it’s the same story. Larger teeth, namely molars, need more tooth roots to keep them securely anchored in your jaw and to provide them with adequate nutrients through blood vessels that run through the roots. Researchers investigate how the correct number of roots develop, focusing on the protein Ezh2, which is known to help bones of the face develop. In mice lacking Ezh2 in a specific tissue type called mesenchyme, which contributes to tooth development, the molars developed fewer roots as captured using micro-CT (pictured, bottom) when compared to normal mouse molars (top). Piecing together the puzzle of tooth root development contributes towards continued efforts to regenerate human teeth to treat tooth loss.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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Scratch That Itching is a familiar irritating sensation,…

Scratch That

Itching is a familiar irritating sensation, detected by sensory neurons connecting the skin to the spinal cord. The cell bodies of these neurons, the sections containing their nuclei, are gathered with those of other sensory neurons in clusters beside the spinal cord, known as dorsal root ganglia (pictured is one of these, with neurons responsible for itch in green). To communicate their message to spinal interneurons, itch neurons use a neurotransmitter named NPPB, which connects to a specific receptor, NPR1. Eliminating NPPB or interneurons carrying NPR1 suppresses itching in mice, and their interaction is likely to be key in humans too. Recent research uncovered several compounds that block both mouse and human versions of NPR1, and at least one of these can prevent itching in mice. While still far from clinical applications, investigating these inhibitory compounds could help explore potential ways of bringing relief to patients suffering from chronic itch.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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