Researchers at The University of Cambridge claim 3D printed eye cells could “aid in the cure of blindness”. They have succeeded in printing adult nerve cells for the first time using an inkjet printer to print out living retinal cells of adult rats, which could be used to replace defective eye tissues.
They printed two types of cells: ganglion cells and glial cells, which were derived from adult rat retinas. The ganglion type of cells is the bridge between information transmission from the eye to brain parts and the glial cells support and protect neurons.
Professor Keith Martin and Doctor Barbara Lorber are co-authors of this study and they work at the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge. They have said the following about this: “The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases. The retina is an exquisitely organised structure where the precise arrangement of cells in relation to one another is critical for effective visual function”.
Despite the fact that these were just preliminary results, they provided “proof of principle that an inkjet printer can be used to print these two types of cells”. Another great thing about their results is that they showed that printed cells stayed healthy and kept their ability to survive and grow in culture. Now for the first time in history, a study shows the essential ganglion and glial cells can be printed in layers on top of each other without ruining their structure.
In an interview with Dezeen magazine, professor Martin has said: “This is the first time that cells from the adult central nervous system have been successfully printed. We’ve demonstrated that you can take cells from the retina and you can effectively separate them out. These can be put in an inkjet printer and we can print those cells out in any pattern we like and we’ve shown that those cells can survive and thrive.”
Their study has been published in the IOP Publishing’s Journal Biofabrication on December 18. Last month another striking thing happened in the field of 3D printing eyes. Researchers from Fripp Design claimed to be able to create as many as 150 prosthetic eyes in one hour. Their prosthetic eyes appeared to be barely distinguishable from real eyes and are expected to be implemented within 12 months.