Scientists have used stem cells to grow a rudimentary eye in the laboratory in a landmark study that raises the prospect of creating tissues to treat blindness and tease apart how diseases can destroy eyesight.
The Japanese team is the first to make significant progress in turning embryonic stem cells into an organ as complex as the eye.
Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists describe how they used embryonic stem cells from mice to grow an “optic cup”, a structure that forms the retina and contains the light-sensitive cells and neurons needed to see properly.
The work gives researchers hope for growing parts of the human eye to investigate the progression of devastating diseases that lead to blindness, and to screen for drugs that might slow or even reverse the conditions.
It also raises the more distant prospect of creating banks of healthy retina cells to transplant into patients whose vision has been damaged by illness or accidents.
[Continues with video at The Guardian]