Stem cells from patients with Usher syndrome used to grow ‘mini eyes’

Skin samples donated by patients from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children will provide insight into the genetic condition

mini eyes
Professor Jane Sowden

Researchers from University College London (UCL) have produced ‘mini eyes’ using stem cells generated from skin samples of patients with Usher syndrome.

The study, which is published in Stem Cell Reports, could help to provide greater understanding of the rare genetic disease.

Patients both with and without Usher syndrome from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) donated skin samples as part of the research. Previous studies using animal cells were unable to imitate the sight loss that is found in patients with Usher syndrome.

Study author, Dr Yeh Chwan Leong, shared that there are challenges to studying the nerve cells at the back of a patient’s retina.

“By using a small biopsy of skin, we now have the technology to reprogramme the cells into stem cells and then create lab-grown retina with the same DNA, and therefore the same genetic conditions, as our patients,” she said.

Professor Jane Sowden shared her gratitude to the patients who donated samples for the research.

“Although a while off, we hope that these models can help us to one day develop treatments that could save the sight of children and young people with Usher syndrome,” she said.

Banner image: 3D mini eye. Credit: Professor Jane Sowden