Stem cell research to help repair retinas

Researchers in the US have developed a line of human stem cells able to repair damaged retinal tissue in mice. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) formed the basis for tissue regeneration, and were developed into precursors, which produce blood vessel-rich tissue needed to regenerate damaged retinal tissue. 

A team at John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, found that when mice with damaged retinas were injected with the cells, they successfully engrafted and repaired damaged blood vessels in retinal tissue. 
iPSCs are adult cells which have been reverted to an embryonic-like state, so can be made to mature into any number of different cell types when given the right cues. They are typically produced in the laboratory by using a virus to deliver a genetic package to mature cells, which resets them to an earlier, undifferentiated state. However, the group at John Hopkins used rings of DNA called plasmids to deliver the genetic payload to reset the cells instead. 
According to the researchers, this virus-free method is safer and reduces the risks associated with iPSCs, such as tumours caused by unchecked growth and cell division. The study was led by Dr Elias Zambidis, of John Hopkins Medicine, who first reported the virus-free approach in 2011. His team used cells taken from the umbilical cord – cord blood cells – to produce the human iPSCs. 
The group now plans to expand the work to other animal models, including diabetic rats.

Read more about retinal investigation here.



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