Human clinical trials may be on the horizon now that researchers have successfully grown retinal cells from stem cells.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a way to grow
organized clusters of cells (organoids) more than ten years ago. These organoids resembled the retina. Human skin cells were then reprogrammed to act as stem cells and to develop into layers of several types of retinal cells.
Researchers then needed to determine if these organoids would be able to regenerate appropriately when introduced to a patient's eye. This was done by using a modified rabies virus to identify pairs of cells that could form the means to communicate with each other.
Retinal organoids were broken apart into individual cells and then given a week to make new connections when exposed to the virus. What the researchers discovered was the presence of synaptic connections with. many of the cells involved being photoreceptors. These are the types of cells that are lost in eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
Encouraged by these study findings, researchers hope that these cells are ready to be studied in human clinical trials with participants suffering from degenerative eye disorders.