Approximately 60,000 patients in Korea require an artificial eye, however 1/3rd of them find themselves not receiving one. Severance Hospital in Korea are looking to remedy this problem. Their Korean research team’s ambition is to make a 3D printed eye commercially available worldwide. Furthermore, they hope to set up a system that encapsulates consulting, design, production and delivery for artificial eyes.
Artificial eyes tend to be an aesthetic solution as opposed to a functional one, but such prosthetics do matter. They may not provide sight but they do allow a degree of normalcy to someone missing a crucial facial feature. The team, led by Professor Yoon Jin-sook, is currently working towards getting trials started. They hope to achieve a GMP certification and secure mass production technology for the prototype.
The team began the commercialization procedure in March, by licensing out the technology to Carima. Carima is a local Korean company that specialises in DLP printing, providing the 3D printing expertise. Another partner on the project the Ministry of Science and ICT, sponsoring “the artificial eye project”. The next step after certification clearance is to set-up the remote consultation service.
“We want to help patients who need artificial eyes with our 3D printing technology,” Professor Yoon said. “Our team plans provide top-notch public health services through high-quality artificial eyes and a network that can increase patient access.”
While artificial eyes are all well and good, there are bio-printed alternatives that researchers are working on. Even though they are still in their infancy, some expect research projects like this to be up and running by 2027. MHOX is planning on making functional eye with full sight, focus and sharpness. Despite being in the concept stage, MHOX’s version is quite ambitious in that it actually connects to the net for sharing visual information.
Similarly, researchers at Cambridge are looking into the possibility of printing eye cells to prevent retinal degeneration. The technology aims to grow and print eye cell cultures outside of the body then surgically implant them to the damaged tissue.
While the technology is not here yet, there are many workable ideas floating around. Till then, artificial eyes will have to do. However, one can continue to hope for the functional alternative to arrive some day and it might be sooner than first thought.