Scientists Develop Human Retinas in a Dish

September 24, 2020 13:02:45

A team of scientists from the Institute for Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (“IOB”) that was led by Botond Roska, in collaboration with the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, have created indistinguishable replicas of human retinas in culture. These will be used to help find the specific cell types that are affected by genetic eye ailments. This project, which took 6 years, will significantly speed up the process of developing new therapies for eye ailments.

The paper’s principal author, who is also a senior researcher in the IOB Human Retinal Circuit Group, Cameron Cowan, says that the research sheds light on an unmet need that has existed for many years, which is to create model retinas that are indistinguishable from real retinas. She added that the efforts the team put into this research will make it possible to develop treatments in a dish that are tailored to individual patient needs.

The retina refers to the part of the eye which has millions of nerves as well as rods and cones, which are light-sensitive cells, that receive as well as organize visual information. The retina of an individual sends this visual information via your optic nerve to your brain, where it is then processed, thus enabling an individual to see.

The retinas that were developed in culture or organoids as they are also called, were extracted from pluripotent stem cells which were then made to self-organize into a 5-layered structure. The mature cultured retinas which can feel light on their surface layers, then delivered these visual synapses through synapses to the cell layers inside.

Additionally, the IOB team also developed a technique that creates highly uniform cultured retinas by the thousands, which provides a valuable resource for many researchers around the globe.

The team also compared human retinas from organ donors to the organoids and discovered that donated retinas were easily damaged by a lack of oxygen and blood flow. This prompted the team to develop a way to keep them fresh for longer. This method ensures that the donated retinas are able to retain healthy functional circuitry and light sensitivity for up to 16 hours.

Using transcriptomes of each retinal cell type that the team created and made public, researchers now have an easier time mapping diseases to retinal cells that they can also develop and study in a dish. Additionally, the IOB Human Organoid Platform Head, Magdalena Renner, states that scientists can now grow high-quality cultured retinas that are derived from an individual’s own pluripotent stem cells then using the transcriptome atlas, a researcher can locate where a disease gene has been expressed and deliver gene therapy that will fix the issue.

This research presents exciting possibilities that other biomedical companies like CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) are likely to follow keenly.

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