Two research groups have successfully generated retinal cells using non-embryonic stem cells. The techniques could advance regenerative medicine by providing the cells and tissues needed to treat a range of degenerative eye conditions.
Both groups presented their research at the annual meeting for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week (May 5).
A Chinese team reported they reprogrammed cells taken from the front of a patient’s eye to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). They were then able to instruct these reprogrammed cells to develop into retinal progenitor cells, the precursors for the different types of cell that make up the retina.
The second group, from north east England, reported how layered retinal tissue can be generated from different types of stem cells with the addition of a growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF).
Using reprogrammed adult cells (iPSCs), as well as embryonic stem cells (ESCs), they were able to reliably generate layered retinal tissue. Introducing IGF as the cells matured created proto-structures ‘reminiscent of developing human retina’. The researchers report that these ‘ocular-like structures’ included RPE cells and neural retina, as well as other elements such as cells of the lens and cornea.
The group say that the approach offers ‘exciting new opportunities to study retinal development and disease’ as well as providing a source of basic materials for transplant and further research.