Are iPS cells useful for treating retinal diseases? There are a number of retinal diseases that affect many people. One potential treatment could be to create retinal tissue that can be transplanted to these patients. Three recent articles have described their experiments in generating retinal tissue.
The first (Nature Communications, doi: 10. 1038/ncomms 5047, 10 June 2014) describes the in-vitro production of retinal tissue from iPS cells, which replicates the development of the human retina in-vitro. It is particularly notable that the retinal tissue produced has photoreceptors that function in a similar way to the natural receptors. According to the authors, these findings are a further step towards the use of iPS cells in future ocular therapies.
The second article (Stem Cell Reports 2; 205-218, 2014) describes the production of retinal epithelial tissue from iPS cells, which can then be used to regenerate the damaged retina in diseases as serious and common as age-associated macular regeneration. When the retinal tissue produced was transplanted into non-human primates, it was found that it did not cause immune rejection or tumour formation.
The third article (Stem Cell Reports 2; 662-674, 2014) also described the production of retinal tissue from iPS cells, which when transplanted to retinal degenerative mice, grafted normally with no negative side effects.
iPS cells use is a major medical advance
This is certainly a major medical advance, which could replace the use of human embryonic stem cells, since the retinal tissue produced is from the patient himself and consequently will not produce immune rejection. Furthermore, and most importantly, the use of iPS cells, unlike embryonic stem cells, does not present any ethical difficulties.