Institute of Neuroanatomy & Developmental Biology (INDB), Eberhard Karls University Tuebingen, Oesterbergstr. 3, 72074 Tübingen, Germany; Center for Neurosensory Systems (ZFN), Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]
From the early days of cell biological research, the eye-especially the retina-has evoked broad interest among scientists. The retina has since been thoroughly investigated and numerous models have been exploited to shed light on its development, morphology, and function. Apart from various animal models and human clinical and anatomical research, stem cell-based models of animal and human cells of origin have entered the field, especially during the last decade. Despite the observation that the retina of different species comprises endogenous stem cells, most stem cell-related research in the human retina is now based on pluripotent stem cell models. Herein, systems of two-dimensional (2D) cultures and co-cultures of distinctly differentiated retinal subtypes revealed a variety of cellular aspects but have in many aspects been replaced by three-dimensional (3D) structures-the so-called retinal organoids. These organoids not only contain all major retinal cell subtypes compared to the physiological situation, but also show a distinct layering in close proximity to the in vivo morphology. Nevertheless, all these models have inherent advantages and disadvantages, which are expounded and summarized in this review. Finally, we discuss current application aspects of stem cell-based retina models and the specific promises they hold for the future.