Oxygen is the most vital nutrient required to support retinal function. Using microelectrodes with tip diameters of one thousandth of a millimeter, we are identifying which layers of the retina require the most oxygen. This then indicated which retinal components are most susceptible to insufficient oxygen supply.
Perhaps the most important finding to date has been that there are specific layers within the inner retina that dominate inner retinal oxygen consumption.
These layers, the plexiform layers, contain cells that perform much of the signal processing required in the inner retina. They are also the sites of much of the retinal pathology seen in ischemic diseases such as diabetic retinopathy.
This observation has opened up a new avenue of research aimed at suppressing the oxygen requirements of these cells, thereby making the retina more resistant to the effects of reduced oxygen supply.