This is the first time new retina cells have been implanted and improved eyesight in mice.
Researchers have come up with a technique using stem cells that could revolutionize the lives of people suffering from degenerative eye conditions.
The team used the skin cells of laboratory mice to create mouse induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in order to grow retina tissue. This was then transplanted into the eyes of mice that had end-stage degenerative eye conditions. Most end-stage eye disease has been known to be irreversible leading to blindness, however 40 percent of the mice who were involved in the study showed signs of ability to see light.
To test the mice they used behavioral analysis to test whether they could detect the light but also to see if the new retina cells are able to communicate effectively with the brain to indicate successful learning skills.
The study is the first time this procedure has been successful showing the light receptors in the new retina tissue are able to establish and send signals from the nervous system to the brain.
Up until now, the most common procedure to treat severe degenerative eye disease is to implant artificial retinas. This new stem cell alternative could be a much more successful approach although further research needs to be done in order to find out if it can be as successful in humans.
“From a clinical point of view, although we think that these results are very promising, human eyes may have a different environment from mice, and [the questions of] whether they accept retinal transplants and make connections with transplants are yet to be tested,” explained Dr. Michiko Mandai, the first author of the paper and a deputy project leader at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan. “We would get the answers only in a human study.”
Details of the study were published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.