Researchers Grow Retina Cells from Stem Cells from Skin

August 30, 2009

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health have grown multiple types of retinal cells from two types of skin-derived stem cells. These findings were announced in the August 24th Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This study began by using embryonic stem cells, but the researchers included the human stem cells from skin or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells as they became available. The group grew several types of retina cells beginning with either type of stem cell, starting with a highly enriched population of very primitive cells with the potential to become retina. This reduced contamination from unwanted cells early in the process.

In normal human development, the retina develops from cells that arise during the earliest stages of the developing nervous system. The Wisconsin scientists took cells from skin, turned them back into cells resembling embryonic stem cells, and then triggered the development of retinal cell types. Because of the success with the iPS cells, the researchers expect that this will lead to more study of retinal development in detail and treatment of conditions that are genetically linked.

Perhaps one day ophthalmologists will be able to repair damage to the retina by growing rescue or repair cells from the patient’s skin. However, more research is needed to understand these cells and their potential and limitations.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Walsh Family Foundation, the Lincy Foundation and the Retina Research Foundation.

Read the release.




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