Helping those who cannot see, with science
Scientists from Cambridge University say that they have successfully managed to print new eye cells. These cells could be used to treat and cure certain types of blindness. this Bio-printing technology is the first step towards using 3D printer technology to create artificial tissue, and is currently being tested for making more complex cellular structures, even organs.
A piezoelectric ink jet printer can be used to print two types of cells from the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue, lining the inner surface of the eye where an image of the visual world is created and acts in a similar was as a film in a camera. The cells being produced are ganglion and glial cells, that transmit information from the eyes to the brain. If these cells and be reproduced and replaced it could help to restore sight for people who have damage to their retina. Even if just a small amount of vision is restored it can make a huge difference, it could mean the difference between being housebound and being able to leave the house on their own.
Moving on from single cells scientists hope that printing complete organs could soon be possible. It could spell an end to dependence on donors and thousands of lives being saved every year. At present, 3D printers can print only single materials or groups of materials. A human ear has already been created using the revolutionary process and scientists are working on making liver and bone.
Dr Sean Cheng, of Cambridge University, said: ‘People have been written off the donor list because their hearts are so bad – if you could print a heart and give it to them, it would change their life.’