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Artificial Human Retinas Created: Functional Human Retinas In A Dish

Accurate replicas of human retinas that can be used to identify the specific types of cells affected by genetic eye diseases have been successfully grown by scientists. The progress in developing individual therapies will be accelerated with this achievement.

Scientists from the Institute for Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, the University of Basel, and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, reported the research in the journal Cell. To create functional human retinas in a dish, the research team led by Botond Roska, Director of the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB) and Professor at the University of Basel has been working on it for the past six years.

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Having features of the human organ – including the disease parameters of individual patients, the artificial tissue they now succeeded to grow is referred to as an organoid. The researchers only needed blood or skin samples from the patients to cultivate the mini-organs.

Close-up view of a human eye (Photo: University of Basel, Suren Manvelyan)

The first author of the paper and a senior researcher in the IOB Human Retinal Circuit Group, Cameron Cowan explained, “Like the human retina, our organoids have a layered structure and react in the same way to light, thus they are special.”

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Strong similarities were confirmed in a comparison of organoids with retinas from multi-organ donors. Professor Botond Roska said, “We show that our organoids contain many of the same cell types as an adult human retina after 38 weeks in culture, the duration of a typical human pregnancy. The high quality of the donated retinal tissue made these comparisons possible. “We were able to maintain human retinas in a functional, light-sensitive state after death for the first time.”

Retinal organoid. Credit: Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB)

Additionally, by demonstrating that retinal diseases map to the same sorts of cells in the organoids and real retinas, the researchers showed the high value of organoids for therapy development.

Another first author of the paper and the Head of the IOB Human Organoid Platform, Magdalena Renner said, “From a patient’s skin or blood samples, we can grow retinal organoids and use those for developing treatments in the laboratory that are tailored to that individual patient.”

The development of new therapies for blinding retinal diseases will be accelerated with this research’s successes.

 

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Artificial Human Retinas Created: Functional Human Retinas In A Dish