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 Retina Transplants from Stem Cells

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Date posted: 06/06/2010

Scientists have created a three-dimensional, retina-like structure out of human embryonic stem cells that they hope could someday serve as a retinal transplant for people with macular degeneration and other diseases of the retina. Their method, published recently in Journal of Neuroscience Methods, offers a potential new source of cells for retinal transplants.

Hans Keirstead, lead author of the paper and a stem cell biologist at University of California, Irvine, says that the method is designed to provide an alternative to human fetal tissue transplants, which have been conducted on a small group of patients and have resulted in improved vision. Fetal cells are difficult to obtain and raise ethical issues. "We really wanted to build upon that technique by creating a renewable source of tissue," he says.

In this study, the researchers first created two types of cells from the human embryonic stem cells: early-stage retinal cells, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells, which provide nourishment to the cells responsible for vision in the retina. The researchers then grew these two types of cells together in a chamber designed to expose them to a gradient of concentrations of solutes and growth-promoting chemicals. The cells could form three-dimensional structures, a feat rarely achieved with stem cells.

Keirstead believes that the study points to two important strategies for creating retinal transplants: growing early retinal cells along with RPE cells, and bathing the cells in a gradually changing solution that encourages the development of three-dimensional layers of cells. His team found that this approach generated early-stage retinal cells that were on the path of differentiating into all of the various cell types in the retina.

See the full Story via external site: www.technologyreview.com

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