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3D Printed ‘Eye Conformers’

The Huffington Post reports on “a group of eye specialists and eye-care providers from the Netherlands [who have] used 3D printing technology to create artificial eye structures, called conformers, in a small study of five children.”

These specialists operated out of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam.  These 3D printed eye structures were created in order to “help” “children with conditions called microphthalmia and anophthalmia, in which they are born with underdeveloped or missing eyes, respectively.  These conditions, which can occur in one or both eyes, affect more than 10 percent of blind children worldwide and as many as 30 in 100,000 children.”

As the researchers explained, “although the sculpted eyes don’t enable the child to see, they do provide critical support of the eye-socket so the child’s face can have a ‘natural’ proportional look.”

“Children with these conditions may have ‘malformed’ eye sockets [so] the face and the areas around the eyes cannot expand to their ‘natural’ contour.  The advantage of 3D printed eye conformers is that they can be replaced often with slightly larger sizes by the parent at home as the child grows, or as frequently as weekly when the child is a few months old.”

Before this, children with these conditions would “be fitted with a device called an ocular prosthesis.”  Or a ‘glass eye’ – as they, at one time, were made from glass.  This can be a laborious device to fit, however.

“For infants with microphthalmia or anophthalmia, time is critical because their rapidly growing heads need the stimulation of a full-size eyeball for the frame of the eye socket to expand accordingly.  Without such stimulation, that section of the skull can cave inward.  3D printed conformers help address this challenge because they can be printed quickly, cheaply, and in a range of sizes varying by less than a millimeter in diameter.”

“The conformers don’t look like eyes.  In fact, the original batch of eyes were green, with no pupils colored in.  But they are convenient enough for parents to fit into their baby’s eye socket after they’re trained by oculists on how to do so.  Early evaluation has shown that socket volumes of the treated eyes doubled, on average, over the treatment time of about a year, thus indicating that significant socket expansion occurred.  The study on these children is ongoing.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Huffington Post

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