Human-Eye Precursor Grown from Stem Cell

News | Health

The achievement, with an 'optic cup' that contains multiple layers of photoreceptors, raises hopes for repairs of damaged eyes in the clinic

By David Cyranoski and Nature magazine | June 15, 2012|

The human eye is a complex structure but the cues to build it come from inside the growing cells. Image: Dougal Waters/Getty

From Nature magazine

A stem-cell biologist has had an eye-opening success in his latest effort to mimic mammalian organ development in vitro. Yoshiki Sasai of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CBD) in Kobe, Japan, has grown the precursor of a human eye in the lab.

The structure, called an optic cup, is 550 micrometres in diameter and contains multiple layers of retinal cells including photoreceptors. The achievement has raised hopes that doctors may one day be able to repair damaged eyes in the clinic. But for researchers at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Yokohama, Japan, where Sasai presented the findings this week, the most exciting thing is that the optic cup developed its structure without guidance from Sasai and his team.

The morphology is the truly extraordinary thing, says Austin Smith, director of the Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge, UK.

Until recently, stem-cell biologists had been able to grow embryonic stem-cells only into two-dimensional sheets. But over the past four years, Sasai has used mouse embryonic stem cells to grow well-organized, three-dimensional cerebral-cortex1, pituitary-gland2 and optic-cup3 tissue. His latest result marks the first time that anyone has managed a similar feat using human cells.

Familiar patterns The various parts of the human optic cup grew in mostly the same order as those in the mouse optic cup. This reconfirms a biological lesson: the cues for this complex formation come from inside the cell, rather than relying on external triggers.

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Human-Eye Precursor Grown from Stem Cell

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