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Stem cells used to create mini human eyes

13/02/2018By Matthew Woodley
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Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have been used to develop mini human eyes in test tubes, which closely resemble the developing eye of an early-stage embryo.

The breakthrough was made by scientists from the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in India, who have been experimenting on stem cells for the past 15 years. While they are still unable to grow complete eyes using the technique, the researchers have indicated the latest development could be useful for treating critical eye injuries.

The researchers also hold promise for the development of ‘lab-grown’ eyes in the future, as the organoids developed by the institute are capable of recpeating steps of the normal corneal development. 



"Availability of such mini corneas at 10 weeks of maturation circumvents the need for complicated cell enrichment protocols and offers a simpler method of establishing enriched cultures of corneal epithelial cell sheets."
Indumathi Mariappan, lead researcher

“These organoids recapitulate the early developmental events in vitro and displayed similar anatomical features and marker expression profiles as that of adult tissues and offers an alternative tissue source for regenerating different tissues of the eye and eliminate the need for complicated cell enrichment procedures,” the researchers said in a presentation at the International Congress of Cell Biology.

Lead researcher Dr Indumathi Mariappan told local newspaper The Times of India that all three layers of the cornea had been observed in the mini eyes, which indicated it had developed correctly.

“Eye field primordial clusters that emerged from differentiating pluripotent stem cells developed into whole eye ball-like, self-organised, three-dimensional, miniature structures consisting of retinal primordia, corneal primordia, primitive eye lid-like outer covering and ciliary margin zone-like adnexal tissues in a step-wise maturation process within 15 weeks,” she said.

“Availability of such mini corneas at 10 weeks of maturation circumvents the need for complicated cell enrichment protocols and offers a simpler method of establishing enriched cultures of corneal epithelial cell sheets for basic research and for regenerative applications.”

Mariappan’s laboratory is involved in basic and translational research aimed at addressing retinal and corneal disease, by using different sources of adult and pluripotent stem cells. The LVPEI has been conducting stem cell research since 2004.

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Image courtesy: Flickr | University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences

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