Researchers create retina from human embryonic stem cells

May 26, 2010

UC Irvine scientists have created an eight-layer, early-stage retina from human embryonic stem cells, the first three-dimensional tissue structure to be made from stem cells.

It also marks the first step toward the development of transplant-ready retinas to treat eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration that affect millions.

"We made a complex structure consisting of many cell types," said study leader Hans Keirstead of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI. "This is a major advance in our quest to treat ."

In previous studies on spinal cord injury, the Keirstead group originated a method by which human could be directed to become specific cell types, a process called differentiation. Results of those studies are leading to the world's first clinical trial using a stem cell-based therapy for acute spinal cord injury.

In this study, the Keirstead team utilized the differentiation technique to create the multiple cell types necessary for the retina. The greatest challenge, Keirstead said, was in the engineering. To mimic early-stage retinal development, the researchers needed to build microscopic gradients for solutions in which to bathe the stem cells to initiate specific differentiation paths.

"Creating this complex tissue is a first for the stem cell field," Keirstead said. "Dr. Gabriel Nistor in our group addressed a really interesting scientific problem with an engineering solution, showing that gradients of solutions can create complex stem cell-based tissues."

The retina is the inside back layer of the eye that records the images a person sees and sends them via the from the eye to the brain. Retinal diseases are particularly damaging to sight. More than 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55. About 100,000 have retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive, that usually manifests in childhood.

"What's so exciting with our discovery," Keirstead said, "is that creating transplantable retinas from stem cells could help millions of people, and we are well on the way."

The UCI researchers are testing the early-stage retinas in animal models to learn how much they improve vision. Positive results would lead to human clinical trials.

Explore further: Scientists identify key to integrating transplanted nerve cells into injured tissue

More information: The study appears online in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods.

Related Stories

Scientists successfully awaken sleeping stem cells

March 18, 2008

Scientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute have discovered what chemical in the eye triggers the dormant capacity of certain non-neuronal cells to transform into progenitor cells, a stem-like cell that can generate new ...

Stem cells restore mobility in neck-injured rats (w/ Video)

November 10, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first human embryonic stem cell treatment approved by the FDA for human testing has been shown to restore limb function in rats with neck spinal cord injuries - a finding that could expand the clinical ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.