Building Retinas Lab Style


In new US research,scientists have used human blood samples and found a method to create a laboratory - made retina structure. These synthetic retinas  would be useful test subjects for test drugs for degenerative eye disease, including retinitis pigmentosa, which causes blindness.

Just one patient blood sample was required to begin the construction of the lab-structure.

A study ophthalmologist  and the author at the University of Wisconsin-Madison  has advised that while he's unsure how far the technology will take researchers, being able to grow a rudimentary retinal structure from a patient's blood cells is encouraging because it confirms earlier findings. Blood, of course, is readily available and easily obtainable for such research. Last year University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists were able to create structures from the most primitive stage of retinal development using embryonic stem cells and stem cells derived from human skin. These structures, however, lacked the organization of mature retinas.

In this most recent investigation they  grew retina-like tissue  which contained proliferating neuroretinal progenitor cells using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells derived from human blood. Layers detected in the initial retinal structures similar to that of an actual human eye were found in sixteen percent of the test bodies. The outermost layer primarily containing photoreceptors, and the inner and middle  layers were full of intermediary retinal neurons and ganglion cells.  Interestingly, within the  study the retinal cells also were  also found to make synapses, which is necessary for them to communicate with each other.

In addition to using the generated retinal tissue for research and drug development, the retina structures may someday be useful to replace multiple layers of retina in patients with significant retina damage.

The research is funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the National Institutes of Health, the Retina Research Foundation, the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the UW Eye Research Institute and the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind, Inc.