Researchers at the University of Warwick, funded by Wellcome Trust, have uncovered a crucial signal that switches on eye development. This discovery will greatly assist researchers looking at stem cells connected to eye development and opens up an avenue of research that could eventually lead to an eye in a dish.
The University of Warwick research team led by Professor Nick Dale and Professor Elizabeth Jones from the University of Warwicks Biological Sciences Department have published their work today, 25th October 2007, in Nature in a paper entitled Purine-mediated signaling triggers eye development.
The researchers were exploring whether release of ATP (an important signaling and energy carrying molecule) influenced the development of locomotion in frogs. Their experiment introduced molecules called ectoenzymes (normally found on the outside surface of cells) into frog embryos at one of the earliest stages when the frogs-to-be were just 8 cells in size. Three ectoenzymes were used: E-NTPDase1, E-NTPDase2 and E-NTPDase3. These ectoenzymes degrade ATP following its release from cells, however each version of the ectoenzyme has slightly different effects on this degradation.
The Warwick research teams interest in locomotion was quickly eclipsed when they were amazed to find that the introduction of just one of the ectoenzemes (E-NTPDase2) had a dramatic affect on eye development in the tadpoles grown from these embryos. When introduced in cells that would form the head area of the tadpole multiple eyes appeared to be created. That was not the only surprise. When it was introduced in some cells that formed body parts outside the head area it could still produce an additional ectopic eye leading to tadpoles with an additional eye in their side, abdomen or even along their tail.
E-NTPDase2 quickly latches on to ATP converting it to ADP. This meant that where and when the researchers introduced E-NTPDase2 it led to nearby cell
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University of Warwick