A recent breakthrough in stem cell technology has brought us closer to having lab-grown human eyeballs.
(Stem cell breakthrough lab-grown eyeballs video)
Biologists led by Kohji Nishida at Osaka University in Japan have discovered a new way to nurture and grow the many separate tissues that make up the human eyeball, and the scientists need only a small sample adult skin to build them all. Using their new method, Nishida's team can grow retinas, corneas, the eye's lens, and more.
In a preliminary trial, the Japanese researchers cultured and grew sheathes of rabbit cornea—the transparent cover of the eye— that restored sight in blind rabbits born without fully-grown corneas. The research is published today in the journal Nature. Don't throw away your glasses (or eye patch) just yet, but human trials are up next.
"We are now in the position to initiate first in-human clinical trials of anterior eye transplantation to restore visual function," Nishida writes in today's Nature paper. He believes that within the next three years, we will be able to run trials to repair disease- or injury-damaged human corneas.
Science fiction fans have been on the lookout for artificial eyes ever since we saw them in Ridley Scott's 1982 film Blade Runner. A genetic designer of eyes has an unpleasant meeting with replicants who interrupt his lab work.
(Genetic design of eyes from Blade Runner)
SF fans also remember the Nikon eyes from Neuromancer:
Case turned his head and looked up into Wage's face. It was a tanned and forgettable mask. The eyes were vatgrown sea-green Nikon transplants.
(Read more about Gibson's Nikon eyes)
Here's the link to the genetic eyes picture from Blade Runner you were looking for - not a serious article picture, so I put it here.