Eye: Developmental Biology

The major sensory organs of the head develop from the interactions of the neural tube with a series of epidermal thickenings called the cranial ectodermal places. The most anterior of these are the two olfactory places that form the ganglia for the olfactory nerves, which are responsible for the sense of smell. The auditory places similarly invigilate to form the inner ear labyrinth, whose neurons form the acoustic ganglion, which enables us to hear. In this section, we will focus on the eye. Eye development is initiated by the master control gene Pax-6, a home box gene with known homologues in humans, mice (small eye), and Drosophila (eyeless). The Pax-6 gene locus is a transcription factor for the various genes and growth factors involved in eye formation. Eye morphogenesis begins with the examination, or outgrowth, of the optic grooves or sulci. These two grooves in the neural folds transform into optic vesicles with the closure of the neural tube. The optic vesicles then develop into the optic cup with the inner layer forming the retina and the outer portion forming the retinal pigment epithelium. The middle portion of the optic cup develops into the ciliary body and iris. During the invagination of the optic cup, the ectoderm begins to thicken and form the lens placed, which eventually separates from the ectoderm to form the lens vesicle at the open end of the optic cup. Further differentiation and mechanical rearrangement of cells in and around the optic cup gives rise to the fully developed eye.

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