Regenerating human retina

March 9, 2022

The retina converts the light received by the eye into a signal that our brain uses to create images, allowing us to see. Damage to the retina drastically affects vision.

Could human retina be able to regenerate itself? According to the findings published today on eBioMedicine from a joint collaboration of ECaBox partners CRG and IBEC, it looks like it might.

The exciting results show how cell fusion between adult stem cells with a specific type of retinal cells (Müller glia) could allow regeneration of the human retinal tissue.

But what does this exactly mean? You might be familiar with the fact that some animals can regrow a limb if cut off (think about the tail of the lizards!). This is due to the fact that the stem cells of the organism are able to differentiate into the specific cell types required to reconstitute the missing or damaged parts.

Coming back to the eye… the retina is part of the central nervous system and is formed by five different types of neurons interconnected through a well-organized network. In lower vertebrates, Müller glia cells are capable to regenerate the retina in response to damage. In contrast, in mammals, the retina has very poor regenerative capacity.

The newly released work by Dr. Bonilla-Pons and co-workers provides important insights into the regenerative potential of the human retina that can be tested in the future for the treatment of retinopathies. Moreover, the ECaBox will allow us to explore this approach for the first time in human eyes by providing an intact human organ ex vivo.