Pluripotent Stem Cells for Retinal Tissue Engineering: Current Status and Future Prospects

Stem Cell Rev Rep. 2018 Aug;14(4):463-483. doi: 10.1007/s12015-018-9802-4.


The retina is a very fine and layered neural tissue, which vitally depends on the preservation of cells, structure, connectivity and vasculature to maintain vision. There is an urgent need to find technical and biological solutions to major challenges associated with functional replacement of retinal cells. The major unmet challenges include generating sufficient numbers of specific cell types, achieving functional integration of transplanted cells, especially photoreceptors, and surgical delivery of retinal cells or tissue without triggering immune responses, inflammation and/or remodeling. The advances of regenerative medicine enabled generation of three-dimensional tissues (organoids), partially recreating the anatomical structure, biological complexity and physiology of several tissues, which are important targets for stem cell replacement therapies. Derivation of retinal tissue in a dish creates new opportunities for cell replacement therapies of blindness and addresses the need to preserve retinal architecture to restore vision. Retinal cell therapies aimed at preserving and improving vision have achieved many improvements in the past ten years. Retinal organoid technologies provide a number of solutions to technical and biological challenges associated with functional replacement of retinal cells to achieve long-term vision restoration. Our review summarizes the progress in cell therapies of retina, with focus on human pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal tissue, and critically evaluates the potential of retinal organoid approaches to solve a major unmet clinical need-retinal repair and vision restoration in conditions caused by retinal degeneration and traumatic ocular injuries. We also analyze obstacles in commercialization of retinal organoid technology for clinical application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / transplantation
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Regenerative Medicine / methods
  • Regenerative Medicine / trends
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*