STKE: Living Optical Fibers

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Science  01 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5829, pp. 1257d
DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5829.1257d

In the eye, specialized glial cells, the Mller cells, support the function and survival of neurons in the retina. Franze et al. now show that these cells also help to pass light to the retina. Light transmission and reflection microscopy of the inner retina (without the photoreceptor cells) revealed that light was transmitted to discrete points. A z-axis reconstruction showed the presence of tubes that corresponded to the Mller cells, which transmitted light effectively with minimal light scattering. Furthermore, dissociated Mller cells exhibited higher refractive index than did retinal neurons, consistent with their role in minimizing light loss through the length of the cell. Optical engineers use waveguide characteristic frequency (the V parameter) as a measure of the light guidance through a propagating material. Calculations of the V parameter for Mller cells confirmed that these cells could function as waveguides for visible light. Indeed, Mller cells efficiently transmitted light when placed in a modified dual-beam laser trap. NRG

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.104, 8287 (2007).

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