Lab-grown retina – combining organoid+organ-on-a chip technology – allows drug toxicity testing
When light floods into our eyes, cells in the retina called photoreceptors turn colourful chemical signals into electrical ones – these pass down through layers of different cells towards the optic nerve bound for the brain. These first steps of vision take a fraction of a second, but are fragile – exposure to too much light, or some medications, can damage eye cells and make them difficult to study. This retinal organoid grows from pluripotent stem cells nurtured in a lab over an artificial 'tissue' that provides nurturing chemicals, just as the bloodstream would feed the developing eye. Some of its cells (artificially stained blue) transform into different photoreceptors known as rods (red) and cones (green). This retina-on-a-chip can now be used to test drugs to improve eye health, or identify those with potentially harmful side-effects.
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