Retinal cells that are normally dormant in vivo are still capable of dividing in vitro, and can even take on properties seen in stem cells.


Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells form a supporting layer in the retina and are implicated in various eye diseases, including some that lead to blindness. Sally Temple at the Neural Stem Cell Institute in Rensselaer, New York, and her colleagues isolated RPE cells (pictured), which are normally dormant throughout life, from human donor eyes. When cultured in certain growth conditions, the cells divided and showed characteristics of stem cells. The cells could also produce RPE and develop into neural, bone and fat cells, and displayed markers of some of these cells after being injected into chick embryos.

These RPE-derived cells represent a new type of stem cell from the central nervous system, the authors say.

Cell Stem Cell 10, 88–95 (2012)