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3D Printing and the Cure for Blindness


Professor Keith Martin, Wen-Kai Haiso, and Barbara Lorber, neuroscientists at Cambridge University, have successfully printed adult nerve cells for the first time. 

“The researchers used an inkjet printer to print living retinal cells of adult rats, which could be built up and used to create replacements for defective eye tissues.”  Professor Martin, quoted by Dezeen, said that they “have 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.”

The research team “hopes the development is a step towards treating retinal diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration…their study is the first to show that retinal ganglion cells, which transmit signals from the eye to the brain, and glial cells that support this process can be printed in layers on top of each other without damaging them.”

Professor Martin added, “the retina is a multi-layered structure.  We’ve shown that we can put down at least two layers so we can put down glial cells and 3D print retinal ganglion cells over the top.”  Currently, 3D printing hasn’t been involved in the printed adult nerve cells, but the team aims to make use of the technology soon. 

“Having successfully printed a layer of nerve cells and a layer of support cells, Martin says that the next step will be to print multiple layers to build up a full retina.” 

“What we’re looking to do now is to develop this towards ways of repairing the retina,” Professor Martin said, “with time there’s no reason why you can’t print multiple different cell types in the same way that you print multiple different colors of ink.  Building up 3D structures is the next step.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Dezeen

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