A lab fluke that resulted in tadpoles growing third eyeballs could be a major boon for human sight, leading to replacement optic parts or even whole eyes grown in petri dishes. A recent research project accidentally happened upon a trigger for eye formation in frogs—a nitrogen-bearing molecule—that may be a missing link in stem cell science, LiveScience reports.
The genes that direct eye development in amphibians had previously been identified; the mystery was how to activate them—and in the right location. Scientists in the tadpole study were able to grow extra eyes even in abdomens and tails. As to humans, one researcher said the most “realistic possibility” is that precursor cells could be created, and then implanted to replaced damaged cells in retinas, lenses and irises.