Eyes grown from stem cells

Cultured mouse embryonic stem cells self-organize into a complex retinal structure

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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With the proper culture conditions, mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells can spontaneously form the rudiments of a retina -- the neural tissue and most complex component of the eye. The results, published today (April 6) in Nature, could help researchers answer some outstanding questions about eye development and dysfunction, and hold promise for the development of retinal tissues for transplantation.
A conceptual image of an ES cell-derived optic cup in a test tube.
Image: M. Eiraku and Y.Sasai at RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology
"I haven't been so excited about a study in a very long time," said retinal geneticist linkurl:Robin Ali; of University College London, who was not involved in the research. "Until now, it's not been possible to develop organs or complex tissues from stem cells.""That's incredible to me that you can do this in vitro," agreed developmental biologist linkurl:Panagiotis Tsonis; of the Center for Tissue Regeneration...
Dynamic formation of an optic cup in 3D culture of an ES cell aggregate.
Green represents retinal precursor tissue.
Video from M. Eiraku and Y. Sasai at RIKEN Center for
Developmental Biology
The Scientist
Two ES cell-derived optic cup formed by self-organization in 3D culture. Green color is fluorescence of GFP protein that was engineered to mark retinal tissue.
Image: M. Eiraku and Y.Sasai at RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology
M. Eiraku et al., "Self-organizing optic-cup morphogenesis in three-dimensional culture," Nature, 472: 51-6, 2011.

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