Institute of Genetic Medicine

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Large scale generation of light-responsive human retinal organoids

A new study could help find new treatments for the visually impaired by making drug and toxicology screening faster and more efficient.

Findings by a team at Newcastle University, and published in the academic journal Stem Cells, has identified a new organoid model that encompasses all human retinal cell types and that is responsive to light.

The number of people worldwide affected by visual impairment is huge — currently estimated at 285 million — and continues to rise as life expectancy increase

Sight Problems

Many of those affected by sight problems are older people, suffering from diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa (RP), and glaucoma.

Until now, most drug studies aimed at finding treatments for these diseases are performed on rodent models, a situation that is far from ideal due to the fundamental structural and functional differences between a rodent’s and a human’s retina.

Recent studies by other researchers have shown the promise of iPSCs in producing “workable” light-responsive 3D retinal cell models.

To date, however, these organoids have not been used extensively in toxicology or pharmacology screening due largely to the lack of differentiation methods that generate them in numbers large enough for this type of testing.

The Newcastle University team addressed this issue by investigating five separate human iPSC lines to determine their ability to generate such retina.

Majlinda Lako, professor of stem cell sciences at Newcastle University’s Institute for Genetic Medicine, said: “In particular we wanted to gauge the organoids’ capacity for large-scale automation and drug screening as well as their usefulness in toxicity screening programs.”

You can read the full press release on the University press office page.

published on: 14 August 2018