I always like to find vision related articles these days, and anything relating to stem cells and vision is super cool, because it often mirrors the type of research going on in my lab, where stem cells are being used to create retinal cell types for transplantation. Theoretically, creating tissues in a dish for transplantation into eyes lacking certain cell types or an entire retina could cure many types of blindness. While this is a big step forward, the embryonic stem cells used in this study still raise ethical concerns, while the stem cells being produced in my lab are not because they aren’t derived from embryos.
This particular article is exciting, however, because stem cell therapies have not been used to create whole eye tissues, but mostly a single population of cells that would have to integrate into the existing architecture of the eye. Whole retinas are great because there are two very debilitation diseases, Proliferative Vitreoretinopathy, or PVR (which I study) and Diabetic Retinopathy, which can involve the retina becoming completely detached from the back of the eye. Creating new retinas in a dish may help restore vision to those individuals who have retinal detachments and who’s retinas are too damaged to reattach. Way to go UC Irvine!