Eye transplants to cure blindness are a step closer after Japanese scientists managed to "grow" a retina in the laboratory for the first time.
Researchers were amazed when stem cell in a test tube organised themselves spontaneously into a complex structure that resembled the developing embryonic eye. The development could lead to whole retinas being cultured and then transplanted, restoring sight in the blind and visually impaired.
The team from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Japan first cultivated embryonic stem cells in a test tube and then added proteins to trigger their development. They hoped that they would form a recognisable organ but were stunned when over 10 days they clustered together and began to grow the "optical cup" of a retina.