3D printing has been used to print a variety of objects — firearms, casts, limbs, food. One of the most recent uses falls into the more altruistic efforts, with researchers announcing they’ve successfully printed eye cells, something that could eventually lead to a cure for blindness. The work was done by researchers at The University of Cambridge, and was published in the journal Biofabrication.
The eye cells were of an adult rat, and were printed using an inkjet printer, with the idea being that these living cells could at some point serve as a substitute for damaged cells in one’s eye. While it isn’t certain that the technology could end up working towards a cure for blindness, all the indications are there, and regardless the work is said to be a big contribution to the development of tissue grafts in particular.
Macular degeneration and glaucoma are two common issues with the eye that could, hopefully, be addressed with the new technology. When printing at high speeds, it was anticipated the resulting cell layers would be damaged, something that ended up being the opposite upon testing. Perhaps surprisingly, the cells can be “fired” at 30MPH hour during the priting process without being damaged. Work is now under way to print a full retina, rather than a couple of layers.
Said Professor Keith Martin in an interview with Dezeen: “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.”