Stem Cell breakthrough may lead scientists repair or grow new human eyes

A breakthrough in stem cells by biologists in Japan might lead to scientists being able to grow eye tissue in labs.

Japanese researchers cultured and grew rabbit cornea, which is a transparent layer on top of the eye. This led to recovered sight in blind rabbits born without fully grown corneas. A team of biologists led by Kohji Nishida at Osaka University in Japan, have grown retinas, corneas, and other tissues of the human eye by using a small sample of adult skin. They were able to use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), genetically reprogrammed adult cells used as an embryonic stem cell, to form a proto-eye to harvest different eye tissue. iPS cells were discovered by Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John Gurdon in 2006 when they found that by using DNA they could create stem cells by using blood or skin cells from children or adults.

“We are now in the position to initiate first in-human clinical trials of anterior eye transplantation to restore visual function,” Nishida wrote inĀ Nature paper.

Nishida and his team are hoping that scientists being able to one day heal eye injuries using the injured persons very own cells.