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Zebrafish Retina Neurovascular Unit

The retina, the light-sensitive part of the eyes, is critically important for vision. To achieve this, the retina requires an efficient system to bring in substrates (e.g. glucose) and remove potentially damaging metabolic waste (e.g. lactate).


The neurovascular unit (NVU) is a complex multi-hetero-cellular structure consisting of neurons, glia, endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, pericytes, and extracellular matrix components. These components are intimately and reciprocally linked to each other, establishing a structural and functional unit, which results in a highly efficient system to regulate blood flow and metabolism. 


The NVU is known to break down in diseases like diabetes, leading to dysfunction in the retina, which results in blindness. However, the intricate processes of how this system is built or how it changes in disease are not fully understood.

Review - Kugler E., Greenwood J, and MacDonald R.*, The ”Neuro-Glial-Vascular” Unit: The Role of Glia in Neurovascular Unit Formation and Dysfunction,  Front. Cell Dev. Biol., 27 September 2021,

Maximum intensity projection of retinal Muller glia cells colour-coded by depth (depth-coding of a 3D stack)
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