07 April 2011

Embryonic eye tissue grown from stem cells

From a report in The Telegraph:
Researchers were amazed when stem cells in a test tube spontaneously organised themselves into a complex structure that resembles the developing embryonic eye. The surprising development could lead eventually to whole retinas being cultured and then transplanted, restoring sight in the blind and visually impaired.

The team from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Japan, first cultivated embryonic stem cells in a test tube and then added proteins to trigger them into developing. They hoped that they would form a recognisable organ but were still stunned when over 10 days they clustered together and began to grow the "optical cup" of a retina.

Tests showed that the cells were functioning normally and were capable of communicating with each other
The experiment was performed on murine cells, but the hope is that human retinal transplants might be feasible within a decade.


  1. Interesting. My mother suffers from macular degeneration and stem cells injected into the eye offer some possibility for relief.
    Expansion of medical science and technology continues to amaze and fascinate me. Routine treatments today might have gotten a physician burned at the stake a fews centuries ago.

  2. This is a distinct possibility.

    I have a friend who has just had a short series of stem cell injections into here knees (for ACL and MCL damage, and cartilage damage; cartilage in one knee was essentially completely gone). The treatment takes her own stem cells out, then injects them where they are "needed."

    She was very nearly a cripple last fall. One knee was treated. Within a week, she was walking on that knee almost normally, and within a month the other knee was done. She is now walking every day and bending and stooping like when she was much younger.

    While the procedure was going on, the doctor also injected stem cells into her wrist, which had Carpal tunnel damage. That has also repaired itself completely.

    Cost? $1900 per treatment/$3800 total. Her medical insurance would not cover it. The insurance company declared it "experimental." But that amount is far less than her co-pay would have been for the knee replacement surgery her orthopedic surgeon wanted to do.

    They haven't even touched the surface of what stem cells can do. The doctor working with them has already done some amazing things - some of which he doesn't even want people to talk about, because he doesn't believe the results himself. He calls them "miraculous remissions."

    I expect them to literally re-grow arms and legs before too long. The eye thing here, though, is better than what I've even thought of.

    Less than 15 years ago, in a science magazine, I read an article entitled "How do cells know what to become?" Now, even though stem cells allow us to do plug-and-play with all sorts of cells, doctors will admit they don't know how stem cells do what they do - but look at what they are doing already!

    Good on ya, Doc!


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