Scientists in Japan have seen the future, and it's a retina grown in dish. They started with a group of mouse embryonic stem cells and saw it through to precise, three-dimensional assembly of a retina. "There's nothing like it," Robin Ali, a human molecular geneticist at the Institute of Ophthalmology in London, told Nature News. "When I received the manuscript, I was stunned, I really was. I never though I'd see the day where you have recapitulation of development in a dish."
The breakthrough will take years to translate to human cells and then be proven safe for transplantation, but still the synthetic retinas could help scientists study eye diseases and identify therapies, Nature News reports.
The retina was grown by a team led by Yoshiki Sasai at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe. Sasai's team grew mouse embryonic stem cells in a nutrient soup containing proteins that pushed stem cells to transform into retinal cells.
"What we've been able to do is resolve a nearly century-old problem in embryology by showing that retinal precursors have the inherent ability to give rise to the complex structure of the optic cup," Sasai said in a statement. "We are now well on our way to becoming able to generate not only differentiated cell types, but organized tissues."