A team of researchers and scientists from John Hopkins University School of Medicine has been successful in growing a miniature retina from adult human stem cells. This incredible breakthrough brings hope for those who suffer from macular degeneration and other retinal diseases that cause vision loss.
Using a cell known as an induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS cell, from a piece of skin, the team was able to “trick” the cell back to an embryonic state and activate genes to create the retina. This is possible because, like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can develop into any cell type.
In this experiment, researchers were astonished to see the retina growing as though it were developing in a human embryo. At what would be comparable to 28 weeks of gestation, the retina not only had the organizational structure of a regular retina, but the team also found that it reacted to light. Essentially, the retina had developed on its own in a petri dish once the scientists had laid the framework.
This groundbreaking research may lead to technologies that can restore vision, but it also provides a means for testing the efficacy of drugs for eye diseases on human samples rather than animals. This may also provide vital information on the causal factors of retinal impairment.
Considering the possibility of actually growing a functioning human retina and the bionic eye surgeries that were performed earlier this year with retinal implant devices, those who suffer from blindness due to retinal disease may have more possibilities achieving restored vision in the future.
While these advances will be a boon to all eye-care professionals, ultra-widefield imaging technology using optomap® will help you see more and treat more of the retina, today. For more information on the different UWF imaging devices we offer, please visit our website, or request a consultation with an Optos representative.