Artificial Retina Created From Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Posted on Jun.07, 2010, by , under Innovations for Visually Impaired

As reported by Medical News Today, UC Irvine scientists have created an eight-layer, early stage retina from human embryonic stem cells, the first three-dimensional tissue structure to be made from stem cells. It also marks the first step toward the development of transplant-ready retinas to treat eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration that affect millions.

“We made a complex structure consisting of many cell types,” said study leader Hans Keirstead of the Reeve-Irvine Research Center and the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI. “This is a major advance in our quest to treat retinal disease.”

A step in the process of producing the 8-layer artificial retina from HESCs

In previous studies on spinal cord injury, the Keirstead group originated a method by which human embryonic stem cells could be directed to become specific cell types, a process called differentiation. Results of those studies are leading to the world’s first clinical trial using a stem cell-based therapy for acute spinal cord injury.

In this study, the Keirstead team utilized the differentiation technique to create the multiple cell types necessary for the retina. The greatest challenge, Keirstead said, was in the engineering. To mimic early stage retinal development, the researchers needed to build microscopic gradients for solutions in which to bathe the stem cells to initiate specific differentiation paths.

“Creating this complex tissue is a first for the stem cell field,” Keirstead said. “Dr. Gabriel Nistor in our group addressed a really interesting scientific problem with an engineering solution, showing that gradients of solutions can create complex stem cell-based tissues.”

UCI researchers used human embryonic stem cells to create these retinal progenitor cells, which later developed into a three-dimensional tissue sheet.

More than 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 55. About 100,000 have retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive, genetic disorder that usually manifests in childhood.

“What’s so exciting with our discovery,” Keirstead said, “is that creating transplantable retinas from stem cells could help millions of people, and we are well on the way.”

The UCI researchers are testing the early-stage retinas in animal models to learn how much they improve vision. Positive results would lead to human clinical trials.

The study appears online in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods. Nistor, Magdalene J. Seiler, Fengrong Yan and David Ferguson contributed to the effort, supported by The Lincy Foundation and private donations to the Keirstead group.<

Source: Tom Vasich
University of California – Irvine

Original article:

16 comments for this entry:
  1. farah

    My 82 year old father is losing his eyesight and very depressed. He is an avid sports enthusiast, but he is finding it increasingly difficult to watch sports on tv. He is devastated. Is there any device that can magnify the tv screen for people with low vision?


  2. Ammer Naber

    Thank you for your comment. Depending on the severity of your father’s vision loss, there are several possible electronic solutions that we offer such as the Jordy or the Acrobat. The Acrobat’s camera can be pointed at the television and your father can view the image from a comfortable distance on the monitor. The Jordy is a head worn unit. Like I said these solutions depend on the severity of your father’s vision loss. There are also other products out there like magnifier optical glasses. The best bet is to call our low vision consultants here so they can get specific details and recommend a product weather it is something we manufacture or a different solution all together. They can be reached at: 800-440-9476. Take Care.

  3. Read the Newsletter for Low Vision Stories and Low Vision Tips

    […] Artificial Retina Created From Human Embryonic Stem Cells UC Irvine scientists have created an eight-layer, early stage retina from human embryonic stem cells, the first three-dimensional tissue structure to be made from stem cells. It also marks the first step toward the development of transplant-ready retinas to treat eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration that affect millions. To read more click here. […]

  4. Cat

    Would this process aid a person whose retina has detached? My husband’s vision is compromised because of a retinal detachment. He had a vitrectomy, which saved his vision, but it’s only partially restored. Thanks.

  5. Carol Harding

    I suffered from correo retinitis many years ago and have been losing my vision as a result thereof. I am now legally blind. the disease left my retinas scarred and doctors keep saying no hope. Does your work give me some chance at optimism?

  6. bob gerace

    Can this development ever lead to a cure for heminopsia? Are there any new treatments that might cure hemianopsia? I have prism glasses that don’t help.

  7. -Angela Dandino

    I have Macular Degeneration and have two blind spots in my eyes when the doctor used the laser to stop the leaking begind my eyes. Also my reading vision is getting worse. Would I be a good candidate for the artificial retina procedure?

  8. Jean Carello

    My husband suffers from Macular Degeneration. He so depressed. Your article on Artifical Retina Created from Human Embryonic Stem Cells is so exciting! Hopefully there is hope at the end of the tunnel for my husband. I will be looking for more articles on this very important subject.

  9. Ammer Naber

    Thank you for sharing your story. We will do our best to keep posting low vision information as we find it. Take care.

  10. Sylvia P

    I have the dry form of macular degeneration and I am legally blind. I have a number of assistive devices, including a CCTV, a hand-held magnifier, and ZoomText on my computer. At first glance some of these devices seem to be a little expensive, but as far as I am concerned, they are worth every penny I have spent. I have had most of them for several years and in a cost versus quality of life analysis, they are a great value.

    Several years ago I was introduced to a company called Systems of Sight. They provide double-lens prism glasses. When I asked my retina specialist about them, he told me not to waste my money. However, the company was local — Orlando, FL — and my kids encouraged me to check it out. I found the company to be honest and ethical, and I did buy the glasses. For me, they worked for a few years. I had more loss of vision, and when I went back for retesting, they advised me that they could not make enough improvement to justify getting a new pair. Now, that’s what I call honesty.

    I would encourage anyone who if dealing with degeneration of eyesight to be open-minded. Look at all the options. No one thing is going to work for everyone, but there are so many possibilities, that no one should be afraid to try. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. There is nothing any more depressing than to just give up hope.

  11. siddharth

    pls advise, one of our relative’s small girl of 8 years of age and since her birth her ratina of both the eyes are ditached, whether any treatment can be given since your present research was successfull. pls advise
    thank u & waiting for your reply

  12. Ammer Naber

    Siddharth, I am sorry to hear about your relatives condition. I am not an expert on the subject. Please refer to the source of the original article at: for more information. Good luck.

  13. Paula Young

    My son Beau is 18 now and was born with ROP and pathologic myopia. He has reduced visual acuity in both eyes and had a severe detatched retina with loss of vision and lens. he sees 20/200 not correctable in the left eye and 20/50 in the right with correction. His eyesight is very fragile and we are waiting for stem cells to try to correct his lost vision or any improvement to make his life easier. Please keep us posted and he would be a candidate for stem cells given his young age. Thank you for all your research and dedication to finding cures for many peoples.

    Paula, Ron & Beau Young

  14. Narendra

    I need the exact update on the Human Retina development by stem cells.

    Narendra Bapat.

  15. Francisco

    Hi, i’m Francisco Rodriguez, i have premature retinopathy does this transplant work for ROP

  16. Charles Hawley

    My signifacant other has a diease that you don’t hear
    to often,and I never read anything about it. I know the spelling won’t be right but here I go Histosses
    Plasmoses. She has had more surgurys,on her eyes,than
    she cares to talk about.I’m almost sure the high powered lazer,has hit the optic nerve.I guess I’m asking if there may ever a way to replace the retina,and the optic nerve. thanks Chuck

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