Scientists at MIPT and their colleagues at Harvard have presented artificially grown retinal cells that can integrate into the retina.
This is the first successful attempt to transplant stem cell-derived ganglion cells (retinal neurons destroyed by glaucoma) in a laboratory setting.
According to Eurek Alert, scientists tested the new technology in mice and found that the cells integrated and survived for a year.
The retinal ganglion cells, which are usually damaged in glaucoma, are responsible for the transmission of visual information. Scientists managed not only to grow neurons (retinal ganglion cells are considered specialized neurons), but also to transplant them into the eyes of mice, having achieved the correct ingrowth of artificial retinal tissue.
Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent damage to the optic nerve and, as a result, to the loss of part of the visual field. The progression of this disease can lead to complete blindness.
Retinal cells were grown using special organelles, and tissue was formed in a Petri dish. These cells were subsequently transplanted into several groups of mice. The MIPT scientists were responsible for the re-isolation and analysis of the transplanted cells.
Research has shown that transplanted donor cells survive in disease-causing microenvironments. Besides, the scientists were able to demonstrate that cells survive regardless of the donor’s age and where the cells are delivered in the retina. Mouse retinal cells can be grown from stem cells in about 21 days. However, according to MIPT scientists, it will take longer for human cells – from 50 to 100 days.
In the future, scientists plan to create specialized cell banks that will allow individual therapy for each patient.