Finn Hallböök – Stem cells, retinal development and regeneration

Our research concerns how neurons in the retina of the eye are formed from stem cells and neuronal precursor cells. The goal is to understand what goes wrong in nerve cell formation when the retina cancer, retinoblastoma, develops in the eye. Our research also aims at harnessing the control of neuron formation towards either forming new neurons or becoming supportive glial cells in the event of injuries or diseases.

We use a unique human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived model system where retina is formed in culture. These “mini-eyes”, also called retinal organoids, are 3-dimensional tissue systems of human retina established after in vitro differentiation of hESCs. The hESCs are induced to form brain-neuroepithelium and via the prosencephalic eye-field, neural retina of the optic cup is formed.

Retinal organoids resemble the eye retina

The organoids form an organised tissue with all cell types in a laminated and functional structure. They recapitulate the development of normal human retina and are therefore a new powerful and versatile model to study the development of human retina. The retinoids are also used to study and model retinoblastoma carcinogenesis with focus on the early events in the carcinogenesis. We use the relatively more well-known animal models as a complement to the retinoids and to develop new research questions and hypotheses.

Our research projects:

  • Studies of neurogenesis in the vertebrate retina.
  • Studies of the early events during retinoblastoma carcinogenesis in the human hESC-derived model for retinal development.
  • Establishment of a stem cell derived human retina model and studies of human neurogenesis in vitro.
  • Studies of endogenous retinal stem- and progenitor cells. The dicotomy of retinal Müller cells: supporters of retinal homeostasis or a source for new neurons and eye growth.

Our funding

Last modified: 2022-06-01