Researchers Grow Parts Of The Human Eye In The Lab
Researchers are one step closer to a stem cell treatment for congenital sight impairment caused by lens damage.
AsianScientist (Feb. 1, 2013) – Researchers in Australia are closer to growing parts of the human eye in the lab.
Associate Professor Tiziano Barberi and Dr. Isabella Mengarelli from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University have, for the first time, derived and purified lens epithelium – the embryonic tissue from which the lens of the eye develops.
Further, the researchers caused these precursor cells to differentiate further into lens cells, providing a platform to test new drugs on human tissue in the lab.
Pluripotent stem cells have the ability to become any cell in the human body including, skin, blood and brain matter. Once the stem cells have begun to differentiate, the challenge for researchers is to control the process and produce only the desired, specific cells.
Using a technology known as fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS), the researchers were able to identify the precise combination of protein markers expressed in the lens epithelium that enabled them to isolate those cells from the rest of the cultures.
Associate Professor Barberi said the results of the Stem Cells Translational Medicine study may someday lead to treatments for visual impairment caused by congenital cataracts or severe damage to the lens from injury through lens transplants.
“The lens has, to some extent, the ability to heal well following surgical intervention. However, with congenital cataracts, the fault is wired into the DNA, so the lens will re-grow with the original impairment. This problem is particularly prevalent in developing countries,” he said.
The researchers will now focus on creating a lens more closely resembling a human eye in the lab.
“The lens cells that we created in the petri dish are organised differently to those in a human eye. The next challenge is mimicking nature more perfectly,” Barberi said.
Source: Monash University; Photo: starbooze/Flickr/CC.
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