Researchers create stem cell-derived retina tissue


A Japanese team of researchers has developed a method of creating three-dimensional retinal tissue from human embryonic stem cells, according to a study published on Thursday in an electronic edition of British science journal Nature Communications.

The research team at the Kobe-based Riken Center for Developmental Biology and Sumitomo Chemical Co. hopes that their discovery will shed light on the retinal mechanism and eventually aid the treatment of incurable eye diseases.

One of the team members said the latest results on the ciliary margin — which has been confirmed to have stem cells producing photoreceptor and nerve cells that form the retina — will be useful in research aimed at finding a remedy for retinal disorders.

According to Atsushi Kuwahara, one of the team members from the center, a separate team of researchers including those from Riken has succeeded in creating ciliary margin from induced pluripotent stem cells. A group led by Masayo Takahashi, project leader on retinal regeneration at the center, is looking at its application in the treatment of pigmentary degeneration of the retina.

The ciliary margin exists in fetal retina before the ciliary body is created and is located in the borders of the neural retina and retinal pigment epithelium. Ciliary margin is hard to obtain and not much is known about its mechanism.

The ciliary body is the structure in the eye which controls the focusing power of the lens.

The team said they have developed a technique of culturing ES cells, which are created from fertilized eggs, to create neural retina, according to the journal paper.

The neural retina was then immersed into a different solution and transformed into retinal pigment epithelium. After the pigment epithelium was put back in the original retina-culturing solution, the ciliary margin was formed in the boundary between the pigment epithelium and newly created neural retina.

By the 150th day of the culture period, the team had created a three-dimensional retina structure, which is similar to the human fetal retina in size and shape, according to the journal paper.