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Researchers: 'Pikachurin' protein linked with kinetic vision

OSAKA--A team of researchers at Osaka Bioscience Institute in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, has identified a protein that is necessary to efficiently transmit visual information to the brain.

The researchers believe that the protein plays a role in determining the efficiency of kinetic vision. They therefore named the protein pikachurin after Pikachu, a popular anime character in the Pokemon media franchise known for its lightning-fast moves.

The finding was revealed in the July 20 issue of the the U.S. science magazine Nature Neuroscience's Web version.

The newly discovered protein is expected to be helpful in the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, they said.

The researchers, headed by Takahisa Furukawa, discovered the pikachurin protein by analyzing mice genes that function in the formation of retinal visual cells that sense light.

The protein localizes to the synaptic cleft in the photoreceptor ribbon synapse, which transmits signals from visual cells to the brain, they said.

Mice whose pikachurin genes have been destroyed showed an improper apposition of the synaptic cleft. Consequently, it took about three more times for them to transmit the signals to the brain. In addition, such mice showed slower eyeball responses tracking moving objects than normal mice, leading the researchers to believe that the pikachurin protein is connected with kinetic vision.

(Jul. 22, 2008)
AP News
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