I have to say, I’m not a science person, so this kind of information takes me a while to digest. I’m not even really sure how it works but apparently researchers have figured out how to take cells from the eye and print them.
The cells they are printing are nerve cells that reside in the retina: ganglion cells and glial cells. Apparently nerve cell loss is a leading contributor to blindness and to date it’s been extremely difficult to reproduce them. So far this research has only been done using the cells from the retinas of rats and this is essentially a proof-of-principle study, but the idea is to get this to the point where human retinas can be repaired with artificial tissue grafts printed on a printer.
One researcher says:
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. 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 printing is 3D, and so far studies have shown the printed cells to survive and thrive after being printed. This is truly the stuff of science fiction. And another practical biomedical use of the new 3D printing technology!
It’s not clear from the article – which was published in December 2013 – how far this research is from implementing in humans, but it’s always good to know they’re hot on the trail of cutting-edge cures for blindness.