Health

Scientists grow small human retinas in a dish

Scientists grow small human retinas in a dish

Kiara Eldred sometimes compares her nine-month scientific experiments, the cultivation of small human retinas in a laboratory dish, the raising of children.

Eldred, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, starts growing thousands of stem cells and feeding nutrients and chemicals that will send them to develop into the retina, the part of the eye that translates light into the signals that go to to lead the view. After two weeks of painstaking cultivation, these cells usually produce 20 to 60 small balls of cells called retinal organoids. As they get older, these emerging retinas become dirty and rotate a lot of cells, so they also have to be washed off when they are fed every other day – at least for the first month and a half.

After nine months of careful care, Eldred has a batch of miniature human retinas that respond to light, about two millimeters in diameter and have the shape of a tennis ball cut in half. But letting the organoids grow is only the first step.

In a new study in the magazine Science, Eldred and colleagues described this system to understand a fundamental question about vision that has remained surprisingly mysterious: how does a color vision develop?

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