As light enters the vertebrate eye, it must travel through all of the retinal layers before reaching the light-sensitive rods and cones (purple). To minimize the diffusion, or scattering, of incoming light, the Müller glia (orange) collect and funnel the light directly to the photoreceptors. Researchers equate Müller cells to a fiber optic plate: a “zero-length window” that can transmit an image without using a lens. The Müller cells, however, are more efficient in the collection of light than man-made optical fibers because of their unique funnel shape. Engineers hope to replicate Nature’s design in various pieces of sensing equipment.
Image by Philip Williams, courtesy of Rachel Wong, University of Washington.