SARS-CoV-2 infects and replicates in photoreceptor and retinal ganglion cells of human retinal organoids

Stem Cell Reports. 2022 Apr 12;17(4):789-803. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2022.02.015. Epub 2022 Mar 24.


Several studies have pointed to retinal involvement in COVID-19, yet many questions remain regarding the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect and replicate in retinal cells and its effects on the retina. Here, we have used human pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal organoids to study retinal infection by SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, SARS-CoV-2 can infect and replicate in retinal organoids, as it is shown to infect different retinal lineages, such as retinal ganglion cells and photoreceptors. SARS-CoV-2 infection of retinal organoids also induces the expression of several inflammatory genes, such as interleukin 33, a gene associated with acute COVID-19 and retinal degeneration. Finally, we show that the use of antibodies to block ACE2 significantly reduces SARS-CoV-2 infection of retinal organoids, indicating that SARS-CoV-2 infects retinal cells in an ACE2-dependent manner. These results suggest a retinal involvement in COVID-19 and emphasize the need to monitor retinal pathologies as potential sequelae of "long COVID."

Keywords: COVID-19; Cytokine; Inflamation; Photoreceptors; Retina; Retinal ganglion cells; SARS-CoV-2; disease modeling; iPSCs; retinal organoids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • COVID-19* / complications
  • Humans
  • Organoids / metabolism
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • Retina
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2