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Scientists grow retinal cells in lab

Scientists in the US have successfully grown light-sensitive human retinal tissue in laboratory conditions.

Researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine were able to grow retinal tissue in a petri-dish by taking adult human retinal cells and 'reprogramming' them back to an embryonic state.
At a stage equivalent to 28 weeks of foetal development, the scientists tested the mini-retina by exposing it to pulses of light. They found that the lab-grown photoreceptors responded to light in the same way as they do in the human eye.
Dr Valeria Canto-Soler, who led the research, said: "We have basically created a miniature human retina in a dish that not only has the architectural organisation of the retina but also has the ability to sense light."
Dr Canto-Soler believes that the new technique could give scientists the opportunity to study retinal diseases in human tissue instead of relying on animal models. In the long term the technique could also be used to replace dead or diseased tissue in patients suffering from conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Dr Canto Soler added: "The work advances opportunities for vision-saving research and may ultimately lead to technologies that restore vision in people with retinal diseases."
The research is published in Nature Communications.

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