The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rat is an animal model for retinal degeneration such as the age-related macular degeneration. The RCS rat undergoes a progressive retinal degeneration during the early postnatal period. A potential treatment to prevent this retinal degeneration is the transplantation into the subretinal space of cells that would replace functions of the degenerating retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells or may form neurotrophic factors. In this study we have investigated the potential of subretinally transplanted embryonic stem cells to prevent the genetically determined photoreceptor cell degeneration in the RCS rat. Embryonic stem cells from the inner cell mass of the mouse blastocyst were allowed to differentiate to neural precursor cells in vitro and were then transplanted into the subretinal space of 20-day-old RCS rats. Transplanted and sham-operated rats were sacrificed 2 months following cell transplantation. The eyes were enucleated and photoreceptor degeneration was quantified by analyzing and determining the thickness of the outer nuclear layer by light and electron microscopy. In the eyes transplanted with embryonic cells up to 8 rows of photoreceptor cell nuclei were observed, whereas in nontreated control eyes the outer nuclear layer had degenerated completely. Transplantation of embryonic stem cells appears to delay photoreceptor cell degeneration in RCS rats.