NEI-funded Scientists Create "New Eye Tissues" from Blood Cells in a Petri Dish

News Brief
New "RPE" made from Blood Cells Stem cells, derived from human blood cells, were grown in petri dishes, treated, and then stained with anti-bodies against zonula occludens (red), a protein found in RPE cells, and DAPI (blue), a nuclear stain. The stem cells had the tiled structure resembling the RPE. Courtesy of Dr. David M. Gamm, University of Wisconsin

Researchers recently demonstrated that human blood cells can be converted into a variety of eye cells important for vision. Immune cells, isolated from participants’ blood samples, were induced to become pluripotent stem cells. The researchers then induced the new stem cells to become structures resembling eye tissues, such as the retina and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Many blinding eye diseases are caused by degeneration of cells in these tissues. Researchers hope that patients’ blood cells could eventually be used to generate replacement tissues for damaged eyes and for studying diseases.

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By Christopher G. Thomas, Ph.D.