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Scientists Lab-Grown Retinas May Restore Vision to People blindness

By: April Carson

In a momentous breakthrough in the quest to mitigate blindness, a new study has revealed that lab-grown retinas may provide people with injured eyes an opportunity to reclaim their vision.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US have uncovered that retinal cells derived from stem cells can reach out and communicate with nearby neighbours, providing a "handshake" which could demonstrate that these cells are prepared for use with those affected by degenerative eye conditions. This handshake is a crucial step along the path to restoring vision, as it confirms that the tissue has an appropriate structure and electrical activity.

The team’s research also extends beyond sight restoration, with their findings demonstrating potential for better understanding of how the retina functions in both healthy and damaged eyes.

An astonishing breakthrough, discovered a decade ago by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is their ability to grow organized clusters of cells referred to as organoids that mirror the retina - an area behind the eye sensitive to light. By growing tissue that resembles an organ in the lab, scientists can more closely study its development and health-related problems.

The scientists enticed retinal cells that sense light and send the signals to our brain, to develop from reprogrammed human skin cells acting as stem cells. These layers of several types of retina eventually formed together when stimulated properly.

This has allowed scientists to study how diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy affect the retina. These conditions affect millions of people worldwide and can cause complete blindness if left untreated.

The success of the researchers’ experiment means that, in the near future, it may be possible to restore vision to people who have lost it due to these conditions. By further refining their processes and understanding how retinal problems arise in the lab-grown retina, scientists will be able to better design treatments for them.

David Gamm, the director of McPherson Eye Research Institute and professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose lab created organoids, elucidated that with these cells from organoids they could replace same type lost in retinal diseases. "We wanted to use them as replacement parts," he said. "We can look at how to manipulate these cells, how to get them to attach and grow so they actually connect in the retina."

Gamm's laboratory has achieved a lot of success in this endeavor, with their organoids showing signs of recovery and improvement when implanted into mice. Furthermore, the lab-grown retinas developed layers with photoreceptor cells that were able to detect light.

Despite the cells having been cultivated in test tubes for several months as tightly-packed clusters, it remained to be seen whether they would perform correctly once we isolated them. This is vital when transplanting these cells into a person's eye.

To determine the suitability of our organoids for transplantation, Gamm's team tested them in a specially-designed chamber that mimicked the environment inside the retina. Here, they observed successful organization and integration of photoreceptor cells into functional units.

Observing axons stretching between cells was one thing. To ensure that these connections were functional, the team isolated clusters of retinal cells and watched as they reconnected. Then, a rabies virus was injected into them to serve as an anchor - over the course of the week, it progressively moved among the retinal cells - confirming that synaptic bonds had been effectively established.

Finally, the team went a step further and tested whether human retinas could detect and transmit light. To do this, they created a 3D-printed cup that housed 20 of these lab-grown retinal cells. Sure enough, when exposed to flashes of light, the cells responded with electrical activity - indicating that they were indeed sensitive to light.

Published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, this proof-of-concept study is an exciting first step in exploring the potential of lab-grown retinas to restore vision to people with blindness.

Learn about Earthing with Clint Ober, the man who re-discovered Grounding!!


April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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