Lab-grown artificial retina to be tested on humans soon

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US have found a way to combine lab-grown light-sensitive eye cells into retinal tissue.

This is a significant step forward in testing artificial retinas in humans.

Working together, photoreceptor cells combine with other cells to form the retina, the thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for converting wavelengths of light into signals that the brain interprets and allows us to see.

The researchers’ goal was to grow retinal cells outside the body and use them to replace dead or dysfunctional tissue inside the eye.

Artificial retina

In 2014, researchers created organoids (clumps of cells that self-assembled into 3D shapes in the lab) that resembled the real retina in form and function.

They did this by reprogramming human skin cells into stem cells, which were then forced to develop into several types of retinal cells.

Last year, the same team published research showing that lab-grown retinal cells can respond to different wavelengths and light intensities, and reach out to neighboring cells to make connections.

A new study has shown that the photoreceptors most commonly associated with each other and form synapses are usually distinguished as rods and cones.

This is reassuring because it is these cell types that are lost in diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

There has also been evidence that cell types called retinal ganglion cells can also form synapses.

Replacing these cells in the eye may be useful in treating diseases such as glaucoma, when the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain is damaged.

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