I was blown away by this paper out of the Sasai laboratory at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology. Essentially, the Sasai laboratory is trying to recapitulate the developmental process of the retina in a test tube in isolation from the rest of the live animal. Its a stunning development that appears to demonstrate bilayered optic vesicles, then cups that reach around to surround the lens vesicle. Many efforts to grow organs in a dish have been attempted before, going back to the 1990’s, and eye development studies have been performed in frogs to get eyes to grow in places they do not normally develop, but this is the first time such a complex tissue/organ has been apparently successfully demonstrated in culture conditions. The advance from the Sasai laboratory specifically demonstrates that the evagination of the optic vesicle can be induced and controlled to form a bilayered cup (from this Webvision page, animation here). This process normally requires the surrounding tissues to provide guidance and induction cues, so engineering this to happen spontaneously from homogeneous pluripotent cells in culture is a substantial advance.
This is the first entry in the category, 100 Papers You Should Read (in vision science). It is a concept borrowed from Robert Marc in a series of lab meetings he held. Those lab meetings were so valuable in contextualizing current understanding of vision science that we would like to share some of the papers discussed in them with you. There will be a new manuscript posted here every two weeks in the hopes of generating discussion and helping to show where we have come from in vision science.