Scientists have developed a new way of growing eye tissue from human stem cells that mimics eye development and have been successful in restoring vision in rabbits. When scientists implanted the eye tissue into rabbits it showed improvement in vision and restoration of the front of the eye. This could prove to be very important for those suffering from vision loss and other eye related diseases and this research may open the door for human testing of anterior eye transplantation.
Previous studies have demonstrated that particular cell types, such as those that constitute the retina or cornea, can be created in the laboratory from pluripotent stem cells. However, these studies do not represent the complexity of whole eye development.
These latest experiments report the generation of multiple cell lineages of the eye, including the lens, cornea, and conjunctiva, using human induced pluripotent stem cells.
The scientists have been able to show that the corneal epithelial cells can be cultivated and transplanted onto the eyes of rabbits with experimentally induced blindness to surgically repair the front of the eye.
“Importantly, it demonstrates that one cell type – the corneal epithelium – could be further grown in the lab and then transplanted on to a rabbit’s eye where it was functional, achieving recovered vision.
“Our work not only holds potential for developing cells for treatment of other areas of the eye, but could set the stage for future human clinical trials of anterior eye transplantation to restore visual function.”
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