The Lat­est In­tel­li­gence

Pi­o­neer­ing new tech­nique proven to work in mice

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Contents -

Stem cell ther­apy may re­store sight, par­rot con­trib­utes to ro­bot de­vel­op­ment, fa­cial re­con­struc­tion of Ne­olithic man, Cern re­searchers shine light on an­ti­mat­ter

Say good­bye to your read­ing glasses. Re­searchers at Ja­pan’s RIKEN Cen­tre for De­vel­op­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy have re­stored vi­sion in mice with end-stage reti­nal de­gen­er­a­tion – the lead­ing cause of ir­re­versible vi­sion loss and blind­ness in el­derly hu­mans – by trans­plant­ing reti­nal tis­sue grown us­ing stem cells.

Pa­tients with con­di­tions such as age-re­lated mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion and re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa lose vi­sion as a re­sult of dam­age to the outer layer of light­sen­si­tive pho­tore­cep­tor cells in the eye. There is cur­rently no cure for this, only ther­a­pies aimed at stop­ping the pro­gres­sion of vi­sion loss.

The team ge­net­i­cally re­pro­grammed skin cells taken from adult mice to an embryonic, stem cell-like state, and then con­verted these into reti­nal tis­sue. When trans­planted into mice with end-stage reti­nal de­gen­er­a­tion, the stem cell-de­rived reti­nal tis­sue de­vel­oped to form pho­tore­cep­tors – spe­cialised neu­rons within the retina that send vi­sion sig­nals to the brain.

“No one has re­ally shown trans­planted stem cellderived reti­nal cells re­spond­ing to light in a straight­for­ward ap­proach, as pre­sented in this study, and we col­lected data to sup­port that the sig­nal is trans­mit­ted to host cells that send sig­nals to the brain,” said re­searcher Michiko Mandai.

When the treated mice were placed in a box con­sist­ing of two cham­bers, with one rigged up to de­liver elec­tric shocks through the floor, they were able to see a warn­ing light and avoid the shocks by mov­ing from one cham­ber to the other.

“We showed that vis­ual function could be re­stored to some de­gree by trans­plan­ta­tion of the stem cellderived retina,” said Mandai. “This means that those who have lost light per­cep­tion may be able to see a spot or a broader field of light again.”

Next up the re­searchers will test tis­sue de­rived from hu­man stem cells in mice, with the ul­ti­mate goal of mov­ing on to clin­i­cal tri­als in hu­mans.

“It is still a de­vel­op­ing-stage ther­apy, and one can­not ex­pect to re­store prac­ti­cal vi­sion at the mo­ment,” said Taka­hashi. “We will start from the stage of see­ing a light or large fig­ure, but hope to re­store more sub­stan­tial vi­sion in the fu­ture.”

“VIS­UAL FUNCTION COULD BE RE­STORED TO SOME DE­GREE”

Adding stem cell-de­rived tis­sue to dam­aged mouse reti­nae re­stored some vi­sion

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