British scientists have made a bold step for printing technology and addressing serious medical issues by developing printed eye cells that could treat blindness. Researchers at Cambridge have used an inkjet printer to print the two types of cells from the retinas of rats. The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Biofabrication, are also keen to reiterate that the findings are “preliminary” but provide a “proof-of-principle” that artificially creating tissue is possible.
Damage to nerve cells in the eye is a leading cause of blindness or similar eye diseases that greatly affect vision. The retina is one of the most vital parts of the eye and any damage to it can be grave but if scientists were able to re-create retina cells then eye disease could be treated more swiftly.
“Our study has shown, for the first time, that cells derived from the mature central nervous system, the eye, can be printed using a piezoelectric inkjet printer,” said the study’s co-authors Professor Keith Martin and Dr Barbara Lorber. “Although our results are preliminary and much more work is still required, the aim is to develop this technology for use in retinal repair in the future.”
The study’s findings are not conclusive but rather assert that producing and growing such cells is possible, laying a foundation for further vital research.
“We plan to extend this study to print other cells of the retina and to investigate if light-sensitive photoreceptors can be successfully printed using inkjet technology,” said Professor Martin.
Light sensitive photoreceptors are neurons in the retina that are responsible for visual phototransduction, where light is converted to electrical signals, an important aspect of vision.
“In addition, we would like to further develop our printing process to be suitable for commercial, multi-nozzle print heads.”