Australian researchers discovered that a mutation in immune cells (microglia) that exist in the retina prevent cones from developing properly.
This discovery is the first time immune cells have been found to play a critical role in the development of cones and gives researchers a better understanding of macular degeneration and other genetic eye diseases.
Microglia communicate and regulate the health of the neurons (cones) in the retina and dictate how the neurons allow us to respond to light. A fewer number of these cones means that you will develop macular degeneration earlier. Researchers hope that by discovering this mechanism by which immune cells regulate the cones that they will be able to develop additional therapies to target the particular signaling pathway. If that becomes possible, there would then be a way to control the amount of cones you have in your retina.
Researchers hope that these findings will one day lead to an improvement in the early detection of inherited eye diseases.