Help others to be mothers - please sign and share the Progress Educational Trust's petition, calling on the UK Government to #ExtendTheLimit on social egg freezing
Page URL:

Skin cells reprogrammed to create retina cells

7 September 2009
Appeared in BioNews 524

Light-sensing retinal eye cells have been grown from human skin cells for the first time. This raises the future possibility of restoring vision to patients with retinas damaged by certain degenerative diseases, by growing rescue or repair cells from the patient's skin. In the shorter term, the breakthrough will further research on genetically-linked eye disorders. For example, scientists will be able to cultivate retinal cells with a chosen genetic defect and then use them to screen potential new drugs that might treat or cure a given condition. The team, from the University of Wisconsin, US, published their research in the August issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Many genetic conditions lead to degeneration of the retina resulting in partial or complete loss of vision. Two such conditions are retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration (affecting an estimated one million people worldwide), both of which lead to a narrowed visual field, and eventual loss of sight. 'In particular these diseases are quite devastating to the patients who are affected by them,' stated David Gamm, an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Wisconsin and lead researcher on the study. 'They rob them of their vision either when they are younger, in the case of retinitis pigmentosa, or when they are older, in the case of macular degeneration. And there are no cures and very few if any treatments for them.' Gamm says his research could benefit people who have these conditions.

His team successfully grew multiple types of retinal cells from both induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), derived from human skin cells as well as the more traditional embryonic stem cells - both of which have the capability of growing in to almost every kind of cell in the body. 'This is an important step forward for us, as it not only confirms that multiple retinal cells can be derived from human iPS cells using the Wisconsin approach, but also shows how similar the process is to normal human retinal development,' said Gamm. 'That is quite remarkable given that the starting cell is so different from a retinal cell and the whole process takes place in a plastic dish.' These cultivated retinal cells could be used to screen new drugs, or even replace damaged retinal cells, in theory.

Gamm believes the same technique can be used to help scientists find treatments for other genetic diseases that affect different parts of the body. 'Now we could take theoretically any human disease, especially those that have specific gene defects underlying them, and produce cell types of interest in those diseases and test them directly for the efficacy of various drugs or how in fact those cells die in disease,' he said.

Researchers grow eye cells from skin cells
VOA News |  25 August 2009
Retina cells could be developed from the stem cells of skin
Health Jockey |  26 August 2009
Retina cells created from skin-derived stem cells
Science Daily |  25 August 2009
Skin cell work brings sight hopes
The Bulletin - page 7 |  28 August 2009
11 June 2012 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
Skin cells have been transformed into working brain cells thanks to the introduction of a single gene. Previous studies used several genetic factors and chemicals to perform the same feat but scientists in the USA report that just one gene, Sox2, is sufficient...
11 April 2011 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Embryonic stem cells have been used to generate a basic retina, the part of the eye that detects light and is needed for vision. The retinal tissue could be used to treat some forms of blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, and to investigate and screen potential new drugs for a range of eye diseases....
28 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Clinical studies presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in the United States have shown that stem cells may be used effectively in the treatment of eye disease and other retinal damage. As reported by Science Daily, in separate trials researchers demonstrated that fetal cells and retinal precursor cells derived from embryonic stem cells and also those developed using iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells can help regenerate damaged areas of...
27 July 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Chinese scientists have created 27 healthy mice from reprogrammed cells known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The iPS cells were reprogrammed from adult mouse skin cells by modifying four key genes using retroviruses, turning them into an embryo-like state. iPS cells are a hot research topic at present as they offer the prospect of a limitless supply of an individual's own stem cells if the technique is replicated in humans, potentially avoiding the pitfal...
20 July 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have been used to repair damaged heart tissue in mice by a team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, US. iPS cells are adult cells that are reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem cells - in this case the iPS cells were derived from ordinary fibroblasts (cells that contribute to scars such as those resulting from a heart attack). When the cells were injected into mice whose hearts had been damaged by a heart attack they improved both...
2 February 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
A special class of adult stem cells, known as human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, has for the first time been reprogrammed into cells that develop into human eggs and sperm. The research, carried out by members of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)'s Broad...
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.