Page URL:

Mouse retina grown from stem cells

11 April 2011
Appeared in BioNews 603

Embryonic stem cells (ES 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.

Japanese scientists grew mouse ES cells and stimulated them to develop into retinal cells, using a protein gel to support three-dimensional growth. Clusters of cells began to spontaneously form structures resembling an early stage of eye development, known as the optic vesicle. Mimicking the processes that normally occur during eye development in the embryo, the structures then folded inward and took the shape of the optic cup, a structure found at a later stage in eye development.

The cells in the inner layer of the optic cup developed into primordial retinal cells - which would normally go on to become the light-sensitive cells in the mature eye - and the outer layer cells developed into retinal support cells, reported Dr Yoshiki Sasai and colleagues at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe. They hope that this technique will eventually yield cells for transplantation to treat blindness.

'In terms of regenerative medicine, we have to go beyond mouse cells. We have to make human retinal tissue from human embryonic stem cells and investigation is under way', Dr Sasai said. 'We hope that such transplantation may recover vision, at least to some partial extent, in patients who lost their eyesight'.

'I never thought I'd see the day where you have recapitulation of development in a dish', said Professor Robin Ali from the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, who was not involved in the study. 'This is the first time anyone has been able to make a complex structure from embryonic stem cells'.

In 2006 Professor Ali and colleagues successfully transplanted retinal cells from newborn mice into adult mice, where they integrated into the adult eye and developed into functioning, light-sensitive cells. 'One big challenge with our approach is where do you get your cells from? This work shows it might be possible to grow sheets of cells to use in transplants', Professor Ali said.

The Japanese study, published in the journal Nature, showed that embryonic stem cells intrinsically possess the ability to self-organise and form intricate structures, given the right cues. 'This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully it's the beginning of an important new phase of stem-cell research', said Dr Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at the biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology, which is currently beginning clinical trials of a stem cell treatment for blindness.

Scientists make eye's retina from stem cells
BBC News |  6 April 2011
Self-organizing optic-cup morphogenesis in three-dimensional culture
Nature |  7 April 2011
Simple eye grown from stem cells
Guardian |  6 April 2011
Stem cells make 'retina in a dish'
Nature |  6 April 2011
1 February 2016 - by Kulraj Singh Bhangra 
Researchers have used the CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technique to correct a genetic mutation that causes blindness...
29 July 2013 - by Dr Dusko Ilic 
We've all heard the stories about Archimedes taking a bath, Newton sitting under an apple tree - about moments when the secrets of nature suddenly revealed themselves to humankind. Well, stem cell science and regenerative medicine are nothing like that!...
31 January 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A clinical trial testing the safety of using human embryonic stem cell (hESC) in the treatment of progressive eye conditions has been carried out by researchers in the USA...
26 September 2011 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
UK scientists have been granted approval to begin the first clinical trial using embryonic stem cells (ES cells) in Europe, which they hope could lead to an effective treatment for a degenerative eye disease causing blindness...
19 September 2011 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
International researchers have mapped over 55 million genetic variations in the mouse genome in the hopes of better understanding human disease. The genomes of 17 strains of mice were analysed and variations in their DNA, called SNPs, were catalogued...
28 March 2011 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
US scientists have taken an important step towards using stem cells to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the UK. The study demonstrates, for the first time, the ability to direct human iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells to become...
21 March 2011 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
UK scientists have shown stem cells can be used to successfully stop glaucoma, an eye disorder, in rats. Stem cells were isolated from bone marrow and successfully grafted onto damaged nerves in the eye...
27 September 2010 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Researchers have successfully transplanted retinal cone cells into blind mice, making progress towards a stem cell treatment for a form of blindness that causes degeneration of the eye's retina...
14 December 2009 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
New research offers promise of restoring vision in patients with congenital or acquired corneal scarring. The findings were presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology in San Diego, US....
7 September 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
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...
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.