Scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have cultivated functional 3-dimensional human retinal tissue in vitro from induced human pluripotent stem cells. And in a significant technical advance over previous cultured retina studies, the resulting tissue exhibits mature cell differentiation and organization, and is able to detect light.
From the JHU press release:
(Lead investigator M. Valeria Canto-Soler) says that the newly developed system gives them the ability to generate hundreds of mini-retinas at a time directly from a person affected by a particular retinal disease such as retinitis pigmentosa. This provides a unique biological system to study the cause of retinal diseases directly in human tissue, instead of relying on animal models.
The system, she says, also opens an array of possibilities for personalized medicine such as testing drugs to treat these diseases in a patient-specific way. In the long term, the potential is also there to replace diseased or dead retinal tissue with lab-grown material to restore vision.
The study appears in last week’s issue of Nature Communications.
The European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) released a new search tool, the Chemical Lists Information System (CheLIST), to help researchers determine if a chemical has ever been used in a research or validation study. To develop and validate new non-animal alternative toxicity tests, researchers need to test a method’s performance with “reference” chemicals, or group of chemicals that have already been well-characterized. The availability of extensive libraries of such reference chemicals – thoroughly characterized and tested – can speed up the development of non-animal toxicity test methods by providing many benchmarks against which the method’s findings can be compared. There is undoubtedly a wealth of such chemical information scattered throughout published scientific literature and in various public and private databases, but these sources are difficult and time-consuming for researchers to access and interpret. CheLIST is the EURL ECVAM’s first effort to consolidate chemical information in a central database with a user-friendly interface. A Joint Research Centre (JRC) announcement describes CheList as being “in its infancy” at present, but notes that it will grow as its developers continue to search for and curate content. To learn more about CheList, see the JRC’s announcement, or explore the database here.