Growing Mini-Retinas From Stem Cells

Researchers can now make miniature retina 'organoids' from mouse and human stem cells

We all know stem cells have incredible potential, but it's taken a while for them to live up to that potential. Now in a move forward against age-related blindness, German scientists have replicated a 3-D mini-retina structure from stem cells with an efficient new protocol. They even include light sensitive cone cells which facilitate colour vision and visual acuity. 

"The goal isn't just to make the closest thing next to a real retina, but also to possibly harness the flexibility of the system to create more diverse ways of studying retina tissue. We need to respect that each protocol is a new beast with different tastes, wrappings, and purposes"

A crosssection of the retina organoid Credit: Manuela Völkner and Mike O. Karl

The new protocol involves splitting a tiny organoid grown from stem cells into 3 pieces at an early stage of development. These pieces then go on to form the miniature retina structures - full of a range of different retinal cells. The new approach also boost the yield too, growing 4 times more structures than previously achieved. 

"Tissue heterogeneity is a major challenge in organoid systems, and here our work provides new insight, which will help to develop specific organoid-based models, specifically to reliably study retinal disease mechanism. Even with our new additions to existing organoid systems, we have not yet reached that tipping point of robustness that we need for people without the expertise to grow these models"

The next step is to increase size further and add in additional tissue like blood vessels. Hopefully this kind of technology will eventually allow reversal of age-related retinal degeneration, or even blindness. 

Read more at MedicalXpress