Retina from human embryonic stem cells

Retina from human embryonic 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. This is a major advance in our quest to treat retinal disease,” said study leader Hans Keirstead, University of California-Irvine (UCI).

In previous studies on spinal cord injury, the Keirstead group originated a method by which human embryonic stem cells could be directed to become specific cell types, a process called differentiation.

Clinical trial

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 utilised 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.

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