Scientists have grown part of an eyeball that has been created in the laboratory from animal stem cells that could one day give millions of blind people back their sight.
One day it might be possible to make an eye in a dish, Nature journal reports.
British eye expert Professor Robin Ali said: 'It is a really, really major landmark. I have never been so excited.'
Writing in the prestigious journal Nature, the Japanese researchers started with a ball of embryonic stem cells and allowed it to develop to the point at which eyeballs appeared to 'bulge' through.
They then removed the budding eyeballs and grew them separately, using the right cocktail of proteins and chemicals to coax them into developing into 3D retinas.
Although the retina not fully mature, it was roughly at the stage that would be found in a baby shortly before it is born.
With the right mix of nutrients, the cells changed and began to grow to make a synthetic retina.
Ultimately, scientists hope they can use this approach to make endless supplies of retinal cells or indeed whole retinas that can be transplanted into patients with visual impairment.
Eventually, it may even be possible to create a whole eye.
A US biotech company has already been granted a license to begin human trials of a stem cell treatment for blindness.
Read more at BBC News & Dailymail.co.uk
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