Harvard Medicine

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Photo credit: iStockphoto.comWhen eye disease strikes, our view of the world  can become fogged. Fortunately, work by HMS scientists may point to a way to regain diminished, even lost, vision.

Using a mouse model, researchers at the Schepens Eye Research Institute created induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from skin cells, then used those stem cells to regenerate areas of the retina that hold photoreceptor cells known as rods and cones. Regeneration was followed by recovery, as the scientists also observed an overall improvement in visual function.

For the study, a team of researchers led by Michael Young, an HMS associate professor of ophthalmology at Schepens, nudged the iPSCs to become immature retinal cells and marked the cells with a fluorescent protein before introducing them into diseased mice. The fluorescence allowed the scientists to monitor the location and function of the introduced cells. As the cells matured, the researchers stimulated the retina with light. Over time, the team detected electrical activity in the new retinal cells and tissue; nonfunctional areas were now functioning at 50 percent of the level found in a nondiseased, fully functioning retina. The study is the first to report this level of function in retinal cells regenerated from iPSCs.

The results may hint at treatments for diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration.


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