British scientists use inkjet tech to print eye cells, raise hopes of blindness cure
This is the first time the technology has been used successfully to print mature central nervous system cells and the results show printed cells remained healthy and retained their ability to survive and grow in culture.world Updated: Dec 18, 2013 23:04 IST
British researchers have used inkjet technology to successfully print cells taken from the eye for the first time, raising the possibility of producing artificial tissue grafts from human retina that could cure blindness.
The breakthrough study was published on Wednesday in Biofabrication journal by researchers at the University of Cambridge.
The results are preliminary and provide proof-of-principle that an inkjet printer can be used to print two types of cells from the retina of adult rats — ganglion cells and glial cells, a university release said.
This is the first time the technology has been used successfully to print mature central nervous system cells and the results show printed cells remained healthy and retained their ability to survive and grow in culture.
Co-authors of the study, professor Keith Martin and Dr Barbara Lorber, from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the university, jointly said in a press release, “The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases. The retina is an exquisitely organised structure where the precise arrangement of cells in relation to one another is critical for effective visual function.”
They added: “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 ability to arrange cells into highly defined patterns and structures has recently elevated the use of 3D printing in the biomedical sciences to create cell-based structures for use in regenerative medicine.
In their study, the researchers used a piezoelectric inkjet printer device that ejected the cells through a sub-millimetre diameter nozzle when a specific electrical pulse was applied. They also used high speed video technology to record the printing process with high resolution and optimised their procedures accordingly.
“For a fluid to print well from an inkjet print head, its properties, such as viscosity and surface tension, need to conform to a fairly narrow range of values. Adding cells to the fluid complicates its properties significantly,” said Wen-Kai Hsiao, another member of the team based at the Inkjet Research Centre in Cambridge.
Once printed, a number of tests were performed on each type of cell to see their ability to survive and grow.
The cells derived from the retina of the rats were retinal ganglion cells, which transmit information from the eye to certain parts of the brain, and glial cells, which provide support and protection to neurons.