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Seeing Unclearly

Retinal organoids derived from human stem cells enable study of age-related macula degeneration

19 November 2022

Seeing Unclearly

The light-sensitive tissue at the backs of your eyes, your retinas, allow you to see. But your macula is the real superstar of your vision. This tiny part of your retina is responsible for seeing fine detail. In the eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it's the macula that deteriorates. Modelling AMD is tricky as mice don’t have maculas, so researchers created lab-grown retinal organoids made from human induced pluripotent stem cells. These organoids mimicked the makeup of the retina, including the macula. Fluorescence microscopy of slices through organoids (pictured) revealed adding chemicals associated with eye disease caused changes seen in AMD, namely, loss of photoreceptor cells (green) and more glial cells (red) in diseased organoids (right) versus healthy ones (left). Further experiments uncovered how photoreceptor cells are lost – through cell extrusion – and that the protein PIEZO1 is involved. This model can, therefore, help unpick what's happening in AMD.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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