Visual Neuroscience

Review Articles

Lab generated retina: Realizing the dream


a1 Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom

a2 Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom

a3 Sunderland Eye Infirmary, Sunderland, United Kingdom


Blindness represents an increasing global problem with significant social and economic impact upon affected patients and society as a whole. In Europe, approximately one in 30 individuals experience sight loss and 75% of those are unemployed, a social burden which is very likely to increase as the population of Europe ages. Diseases affecting the retina account for approximately 26% of blindness globally and 70% of blindness in the United Kingdom. To date, there are no treatments to restore lost retinal cells and improve visual function, highlighting an urgent need for new therapeutic approaches. A pioneering breakthrough has demonstrated the ability to generate synthetic retina from pluripotent stem cells under laboratory conditions, a finding with immense relevance for basic research, in vitro disease modeling, drug discovery, and cell replacement therapies. This review summarizes the current achievements in pluripotent stem cell differentiation toward retinal cells and highlights the steps that need to be completed in order to generate human synthetic retinae with high efficiency and reproducibly from patient-specific pluripotent stem cells.

(Received November 19 2013)

(Accepted March 03 2014)

(Online publication May 22 2014)


  • Neural retina;
  • Retinal pigmented epithelium;
  • Human pluripotent stem cells;
  • Differentiation;
  • Age related macular degeneration (AMD);
  • Hereditary retinal dystrophies (HRDs)


c1 Address correspondence to: Majlinda Lako, Ph.D., Newcastle University, Institute of Genetic Medicine, International Centre for Life, Newcastle NE1 3BZ, United Kingdom. E-mail: