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Retina Created From Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Retina Created from Human Embryonic Stem Cells

ScienceDaily (May 27, 2010) UC Irvine scientists have created an eight-layer, early stage retina from human embryonic stem cells, the first three-dimensional tissue structure to be made from 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," said study leader Hans Keirstead of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI. "This is a major advance in our quest to treat retinal disease."

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. 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 utilized 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.

"Creating this complex tissue is a first for the stem cell field," Keirstead said. "Dr. Gabriel Nistor in our group addressed a really interesting scientific problem with an engineering solution, showing that gradients of solutions can create complex stem cell-based tissues."

The retina is the inside back layer of the eye that records the images a person sees and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. Retinal diseases are particularly damaging to sight. More than 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55. About 100,000 have retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive, genetic disorder that usually manifests in childhood.

"What's so exciting with our discovery," Keirstead said, "is that creating transplantable retinas from stem cells could help millions of people, and we are well on the way."

The UCI researchers are testing the early-stage retinas in animal models to learn how much they improve vision. Positive results would lead to human clinical trials.

The study appears online in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods. Nistor, Magdalene J. Seiler, Fengrong Yan and David Ferguson contributed to the effort, supported by The Lincy Foundation and private donations to the Keirsteadgroup.

Exciting stuff this is!
Hey, that is good news! My mother has macular degeneration, but since she's already 89 years old, I'm certain that this won't be widely available in time to help her.
Even if there were transplant-ready retinas available today Cat I'm afraid, unfortunately that it's very possible people in your mom's age bracket might not even be candidates for the procedure, although that kind of thing often is determined on how invasive the procedure itself is, among other factors such as overall general health, etc.
You're no doubt correct. Her general health is amazing for her age.
After I'd posted that though and logged off I thought to myself, 'Gee, T., could you have made it sound any more depressing?'

Nope. I think I covered that pretty well. [img][/img] is not a valid Image. [img][/img] is not a valid Image.

Sorry 'bout that, Cat, but I hope you know I didn't mean to be discouraging or negative, but maybe just a bit too realistic.

But then, never can tell - wouldn't it be something if the elderly in good health could be some of the first it would be available to since some of them have been able to deal with cataracts, etc. successfully but have otherwise maybe suffered poor eyesight for a long time because of macular degeneration and might be able to remain independent longer if they receive those retinas.

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Edited by Hypatia on 06/03/2010 02:33
Hypatia: I could hardly be more discouraged already about the likelihood of my mother being a candidate for such a procedure. No, I think you were being entirely realistic about it. Unless she lives to be a centenarian, I doubt that it will be available in time to help her anyway.

It would be great if the elderly were placed first in line for such a procedure, but it isn't likely.
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