Keep an eye on stem cells

Stem cells are amazing, aren’t they? I mean, they can’t turn apples into human skin, but they can make any other type of tissue.

In a spectacular demonstration of this, a Japanese team have grown mouse eye tissue in the laboratory (Eiraku M, Takata N, Ishibashi H, Kawada M, Sakakura E, Okuda S, Sekiguchi K, Adachi T & Sasai Y 2011, “Self-organizing optic-cup morphogenesis in three-dimensional culture”, Nature, vol. 472, no. 7341, pp. 51–56).

It’s not a full eye, just an “optic cup”, which forms part of the retina. But it does contain light-sensitive cells, so give it a lens, hook it up to an optic nerve, and you never know.

How long till retinal cells grown in this way could be used to cure blindness? Years, probably, but not that long to wait for such an amazing development.

Although the three blind mice may get their cure sooner.


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