Müller cells undergo significant morphological, cellular, and molecular changes when retinal conditions become abnormal or when there is injury to retina. Some of the changes are related to wound healing and tissue repair, whereas others reflect Müller cell involvement in protecting the retina from further damage. For example, in atrophic macular lesions characterized by the loss of RPE and photoreceptors, Müller cells adhere to the denuded Bruch's membrane and may help to maintain the outer blood-retina barrier (Rentsch, 1977; Eagle, 1984; Birnbach et al., 1994). Similarly, a role for Müller cells in ELM repair is suggested by the observation that following vitrectomy, breaks in the ELM are sealed off by Müller cell processes (Madeperla et al., 1994; cf. Gass, 1999). In addition, Müller cells express growth factors as well as neurotransmitter transporters that have important functions in preventing excitotoxic damage to retinal neurons (Wen et al., 1995; Otori et al., 1994; Harada et al., 1998). This chapter will describe the putative role of Müller cells in retinal disease and the cellular and molecular changes in response to retinal injury.
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