Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


An Eye on Stem Cells

Heidelberg scientists investigate the retina of the medaka fish with permanent genetic cell labelling

A single stem cell has the potential to generate offspring that differentiates into a variety of specialised cell types. This has now been shown by a team of Heidelberg biologists in the adult retina of the medaka fish as a model system.

By means of single cell transplantation from four different transgenic fish lines (on the right) the scientists generated a retina with several different Arched Continuous Stripes (ArCoS). The concentric layers for each coloured stripe represent all different cell types of the retina. For orientation: The fish eye is viewed from a lateral position and the round white structure in the middle is the lens. Figure: Centre for Organismal Studies

By applying permanent genetic cell labelling to the retinal stem cells, the scientists Prof. Dr. Joachim Wittbrodt and Dr. Lázaro Centanin from the Heidelberg University's Centre for Organismal Studies could show that a single retinal stem cell is multi-potent and can develop into all retinal cell types. These results have been published in the journal „Cell Stem Cell“.

Stem cells help the body to grow or regenerate damaged cells or tissues. This universal response to various problems in the adult organism, even in the brain, is currently in the focus of research all over the world. One key question has so far remained unanswered: Is the “SWAT team” of stem cells a team of specialists or is it composed of individual universalists? In other words: does every cell type to be repaired require a special type of stem cells or can any single stem cell divide and generate offspring that fixes all problems in its respective environment?

To address this key question, the Heidelberg scientists combined a permanent genetic cell labelling technique with single cell transplantations in medaka fish as a model organism. Thus, the research group headed by Prof. Wittbrodt could label single stem cells in the medaka retina and all of their descendants in a complete lineage tree. This allowed them to study the behaviour of single stem cells in their “natural” environment, namely the growing fish retina. The results obtained in this study demonstrate that retinal stem cells are multi-potent and a single stem cell can develop into all retinal cell types.

Experimentally this is highlighted by the formation of so-called Arched Continuous Stripes (ArCoS), labelled stripes that go through the entire retina and contain all retinal cell types. All these ArCoS originate in a single retinal stem cell. “Interestingly, different cell types within an ArCoS are more closely related than neighbouring cells of one cell type”, says Lázaro Centanin, postdoctoral researcher in the Wittbrodt group.

The results indicate that the growth of the retina is regulated by controlling stem cell proliferation, while the differentiation into specific cell types proceeds as an intrinsic programme. “It‘s as if a house was built by a universal craftsman who does it all, laying bricks, plastering, plumbing and roofing all simultaneously because the craftsman it is able to split himself up“, says Joachim Wittbrodt, director of Heidelberg University's Centre for Organismal Studies and at the same time head of the Institute of Toxicology and Genetics at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

In addition, the scientists could show that in the same organ – the fish eye – a second class of stem cells exists besides the multi-potent retinal stem cells: the stem cells of the pigmented epithelium. According to Prof. Wittbrodt, the growth rates of both stem cell populations are closely correlated. The retinal pigment stem cells, however, have a limited potential and are merely unipotent.

Apart from its relevance for basic research in retinal growth and regeneration, the methods developed and applied in this study have great potential for future research. The genetic labelling of single stem cells and all their descendants in the medaka eye, which grows in a tightly controlled temporal and spatial sequence throughout its entire life, will allow insights into the behaviour and the key developmental processes of single stem cells and their descendants in the intact living organ. This will also allow Prof. Wittbrodt's research group to further study the relevant regulatory mechanisms in individual cells in the context of the entire organism.

For more information, go to

Original publication:
L. Centanin, B. Hoeckendorf, J. Wittbrodt: Fate Restriction and Multipotency in Retinal Stem Cells. Cell Stem Cell (2011), doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2011.11.004
Prof. Dr. Joachim Wittbrodt Heidelberg
University – Centre for Organismal Studies
KIT – Institute of Toxicology and Genetics
Phone: +49 6221 54-6499
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: +49 6221 54-2311

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>