Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Karolinska Institutet have engineered a 3D printed eye implant for treating diabetes. The device encapsulates insulin-producing pancreatic cells and electronic sensors. By implanting it into the anterior chamber of the eye, a location devoid of immune responses, the team has removed the need for additional sutures or invasive implantation methods.
Initial in vivo tests on murine models demonstrated the implant’s mechanical stability for prolonged periods, and its cellular integration with the host’s vascular system. The eye’s transparency permits real-time monitoring, eliminating the need for invasive procedures to assess graft function. The device is designed as a 240 micron long wedge, allowing mechanical fixation at the angle between the iris and the cornea, a first in ocular device implantation. The team introduced a flap-door technique to secure living mini-organs within a micro-cage.
The research, published in Advanced Materials, highlights the synergy between 3D printing technology and cellular therapy. The team has used 3D printing to precisely position micro-organs like pancreatic islets in the eye, thus offering a stable environment for these cells. Anna Herland, a senior lecturer involved in the project, notes that the eye’s unique immunological properties make it an ideal implantation site. She envisages future iterations of the device incorporating advanced functionalities like integrated electronics or controlled drug release mechanisms.
By focusing on ocular implantation and real-time monitoring, this technology may catalyze advances in cellular therapy methods, especially for diabetes treatment. Looking forward, it’s conceivable that with continued research and optimization, such implants could become a standard treatment modality, thereby reducing the current treatment burdens and improving patient outcomes.
You can read the research paper, titled “3D-Printed Biohybrid Microstructures Enable Transplantation and Vascularization of Microtissues in the Anterior Chamber of the Eye” over at this link.
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