Research highlight

Stem cells: From human stem cells to light-sensing retinas

Nature Communications

June 11, 2014

Retinal tissue with the capacity to sense light has been generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells, a study published this week in Nature Communications reports. This work provides a system to study human retinal development and diseases that cause blindness.

Many forms of blindness result from the dysfunction or loss of cells, called photoreceptors, which are responsible for sensing light in the retina. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) hold great potential for the modelling of these diseases, or as potential therapeutic agents. Previous studies have shown that it is possible to generate retinal tissue, including photoreceptors, from human iPSCs in a culture dish.

Taking the next step, Maria Valeria Canto-Soler and colleagues, show that human iPSCs give rise to retinal tissue that resembles the anatomy of the developing human eye and contains photoreceptor cells that respond to light in a similar way to those in living organisms.

While the work did not directly test the therapeutic potential of these cells, it brings us closer to the anticipated use of human iPSCs for disease modelling and is a step towards developing future therapies.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms5047

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