Cells to restore eyesight are grown in lab and transplanted into blind mice
Artificial photoreceptors integrated into retina after being transplanted into blind mice
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 22 July 2013
The prospect of restoring the sight of blind people with stem-cell transplants has come a step closer with a study showing that it is possible to grow the light-sensitive cells of the eye in a dish with the help of an artificial retina, scientists said.
For the first time, researchers have not only grown the photoreceptors of the eye in the laboratory from stem cells but transplanted them into eyes of blind mice where the cells have become fully integrated into the complex retinal tissue.
So far the scientists have been unable to show any improvement in the vision of the blind mice – but they are confident that this will soon be possible in further experiments, which should enable them to move to the first clinical trials on patients within five years.
Professor Robin Ali of University College London, who led the research at the Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital, said that the technique could lead to stem cell transplants for improving the vision of thousands of people with degenerative eye disorders caused by the progressive loss of photosensitive cells.
“The breakthrough here is that we’ve demonstrated we can transplant photoreceptors derived from embryonic stem cells into adult mice. It paves the way to a human clinical trial because now we have a clear route map of how to do it,” Professor Ali said.
The loss of photosensitive cells, the rods and cones of the retina, is a leading cause of sight loss in a number of degenerative eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes-related blindness.
Professor Ali and his team extracted stem cells from mouse embryos and grew them into light-sensitive rod cells with the help of an artificial retina growing in a laboratory dish. This allowed the rod cells to develop the complex three-dimensional structure that is important for them to function correctly.
“Over recent years scientists have become pretty good at working with stem cells and coaxing them to develop into different types of adult cells and tissues. But until recently the complex structure of the retina has proved difficult to reproduce in the lab,” Professor Ali said.
“The new 3D technique more closely mimics normal development, which means we are able to pick out and purify the cells at precisely the right stage to ensure successful transplantation. The next step will be to refine this technique using human cells to enable us to start clinical trials,” he said.
A separate clinical trial with embryonic stem cells is already under way in Britain and the United States to treat Stargardt’s disease, an incurable eye condition where there is a loss of the retinal cells that support and protect the light-sensitive cells.
The study, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology and funded by the Medical Research Council, involved the transplant of about 200,000 artificially grown rod cells into the retinas of night-blind mice, which lacked the rod cells that provide vision in low-light conditions.
Oscar Pistorius trial: Paralympian sick again after photographs of Reeva Steenkamp's body are shown in court
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: US pushes search towards vast expanse of the Indian Ocean
Seth Rogen compiles list of all the celebrities he’s got high with
Oscar Pistorius trial: Photographs of Paralympian splattered in blood shown in court
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Focus shifts west as Indian Ocean becomes latest search area for the aircraft and its passengers
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
- 1 Tony Benn meets Ali G: Watch Labour veteran burn Sacha Baron Cohen
- 2 Women do experience two different types of orgasm, study reveals
- 3 Tony Benn dead: Veteran Labour politician passes away at 88
- 4 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 5 Gauthier Soho has ranted against 'food blaggers' - so can we really trust online reviews?
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: This well respected and exciting...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting company and market...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + EXCELLENT SALARY: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Cli...
£25,000 to £35,000: IT Connections Ltd: Signal Processing Engineer / Acoustics...