Do eyes have immunity?
There was an unforgettable scene in the movie Minority Report with an eye implantation. In this new world (which we have almost already lived through), personality was identified through the eyes, and our hero Tom Cruise was at large, forced to have an operation at the hands of a somewhat-criminal ophthalmologist. This operation was successful, and the new eyes took root.
This scene will be remembered by many in light of recent discoveries in the field of immune cells. When a person has an organ implant of some kind, they must take drugs to suppress the immune response, but eye transplants usually don’t require this. Why? Because there are several components of the eye – the lens, for example – do not have access to the blood vessels through which immune cells are distributed. So therefore it is believed that these parts of the eye have “immune privileges”.
New research (in Scientific Reports), however, shows that this isn’t true and that the eye does not have an immunity to immunity. There was a complex study involving mice with a mutated gene that produces such-and-such protein – you don’t need all these details. It turns out that immune cells cunningly get into the lens through the ciliary ligaments. Ciliary fibers connect the lens to the ciliary body, where the muscle is located, the contraction of which controls the curvature of the lens.
Thus, immune cells may be present in the lens and facilitate the healing process, but also play a role in loss of vision.
What does this change? So far just our point-of-view. We won’t change the eye yet. But the fact that the lens is affected to some extent by the immune system may mean that we can better understand visual impairment, particularly with cataracts.
It doesn’t seem like anything sensational, and it was done on mice. But such small steps, from the view of the general reader, quite often leads us to revolutions in medicine. And such revolutions are always good.