Researchers in Toronto have successfully encased stem cells in a biomaterial called a hydrogel that assists in transplanting the cells. The hydrogel helps the stem cells integrate with tissue they enter. Stem cells have the ability to mutate into any type of cell and scientists have had success growing them in the lab. But the transition into the body, where it’s hoped the stem cells will help regrow tissue and organs, is frequently problematic. The hydrogels make the transition more effective.
Using hydrogels to transplant photoreceptors grown from stem cells into the retina of blind mice, researchers were able to improve the vision of the mice. “After cell transplantation, our measurements showed that mice with previously no visual function regained approximately 15% of their pupillary response. Their eyes are beginning to detect light and respond appropriately,” says Dr. Brian Ballios of the University of Toronto, which published the study.