Human-derived stem cells can spontaneously form the tissue that develops into the part of the eye that allows us to see, according to a study published by Cell Press in the 5th anniversary issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell. Transplantation of this 3D tissue in the future could help patients with visual impairments see clearly.
During development, light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye, called the retina, forms from a structure known as the optic cup. In the new study, this structure spontaneously emerged from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). The hESC-derived cells formed the correct 3D shape and the two layers of the optic cup, including a layer containing a large number of light-responsive cells called photoreceptors. Because retinal degeneration primarily results from damage to these cells, the hESC-derived tissue could be ideal transplantation material.