Stem cells make ‘retina in a dish’

A retina made in a laboratory in Japan could pave the way for treatments for human eye diseases, including some forms of blindness. Created by coaxing mouse embryonic stem cells into a precise three-dimensional assembly, the ‘retina in a dish’ is by far and away the most complex biological tissue engineered yet, scientists say. “There’s nothing like it,” says Robin Ali, a human molecular geneticist at the Institute of Ophthalmology in London who was not involved in the study. “When I received the manuscript, I was stunned, I really was. I never though I’d see the day where you have recapitulation of development in a dish.” If the technique, published today in Nature, can be adapted to human cells and proved safe for transplantation — which will take years — it could offer an unlimited well of tissue to replace damaged retinas. More immediately, the synthetic retinal tissue could help scientists in the study of eye disease and in identifying therapies.

April 19, 2011

Original web page at Nature