Health News: Specific Protein Essential for Healthy Eyes

Researchers have found for the first time that a specific protein is essential for maintaining a healthy retina in the eye. It may also have implications for understanding various cancers and treating other conditions in the immune, reproductive, vascular, and nervous systems.

Protein S helps maintain a healthy retina through its involvement in the process of pruning photoreceptors, the light-sensitive neurons in the eye. These photoreceptors keep growing and elongating from their inner end—in order to maintain a constant length, they must be pruned from their outer end by specialized cells called retinal pigment epithelial cells.

Without such pruning—which also clears away many free radicals and toxic byproducts generated during visual biochemical reactions—photoreceptors would succumb to toxicity and degenerate. That would lead to blindness if unchecked.