Through the Looking Glass (Scientists create a retina using stem cells in a dish)
Scientists from John’s Hopkins were amazed recently with the results of an experiment which was not expected to be as successful as it was. “We have basically created a miniature human retina in a dish that not only has the architectural organization of the retina, but also has the ability to sense light,” said M. Valeria […]
Scientists from John’s Hopkins were amazed recently with the results of an experiment which was not expected to be as successful as it was. “We have basically created a miniature human retina in a dish that not only has the architectural organization of the retina, but also has the ability to sense light,” said M. Valeria Canto Soler, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the John’s Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Pluripotent” stem cells, immature stem cells which mirror the function of embryonic stem cells, were the cells used to develop the retina. It appears the cells began forming as if they were growing into an embryo. Scientists reported that stem cells developed into a retina primarily without interference. Not only did the stem cells develop into a retina, but it was functional and light sensitive. One of the remaining issues is figuring out how to connect the brain so that appropriate visual perceptions are fashioned.
Q: So, who would benefit most from this development?
A: The elderly population.
Studies show, “Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. Advanced age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world.”
Vision loss can be caused by many factors. One of the causes of blindness is due to the loss of retinal cells like photoreceptors (which, once damaged, can never grow back). The rise of this newest development may be the start to scientists’ ability to potentially create retinas in a laboratory. In turn, these retinas can be transplanted into a visually impaired person’s eyes, ultimately restoring sight.
All in all, successfully creating a bodily organ, especially an organ which is part of the nervous system, only leaves room for scientists to create other organs in the body. Next could be the heart, liver, or even a kidney. Science is forever changing, and this latest development is only proof that stem cells and stem cell research are surely valuable investments.
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