The possibility of printing organs or tissues to treat a range of medical conditions is one that continually fascinates me. So I was interested to read about a new approach using a standard ink-jet printer to build tissue for repairing retinal damage.
Technology Review reports on why printing eye cells could be more effective than the conventional method of generating cells:
Scientists can grow single layers of cells in cultures, but printing may be a more effective way to engineer new tissues and organs, which are made of multiple different cell types positioned in intricate three-dimensional orientations. The retina, for example, is a highly organized, multilayered structure composed of various types of neurons and non-neuronal cells. The new ink-jet technique makes it possible to place retinal cells in “very precise and special arrangements,” says [University of Cambridge professor Keith Martin, who led the research].
Rebuilding the retina is an extremely difficult challenge, because “you have to reconstruct what is basically a small computer” whose function arises from a very complicated architecture in which multiple cell layers are connected in a number of different ways, says Joel Schuman, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh. If this architecture could be re-created using a printer, “you would be so many steps ahead of trying to grow the layers individually and then put them together,” he says.
The piece goes on to explain how printed eye cells could be used in treating common forms of blindness including macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness.
Previously: Stanford researchers develop solar-powered, wireless retinal implant, Australian scientists implant early prototype of a “bionic eye” into a patient, Stanford-developed retinal prosthesis uses near-infrared light to transmit images and Developing a prosthetic eye to treat blindness
Photo by Scinern