Printing Eye Cells Shown Feasible Using Inkjet Technology
December 18, 2013

Printing Eye Cells Shown Feasible Using Inkjet Technology

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A UK team of biomedical researchers has successfully demonstrated the ability to use inkjet technology to print cells taken from the eye, according to a newly published report in the journal Biofabrication.

In the study, an inkjet printer was used to print two types of cells derived from the retina of adult rats ― ganglion cells, which send information from the eye to the brain, and glial cells, which offer fortification and protection for neurons.

The researchers said their printed cells stayed healthy and kept their ability to live and develop in culture. The team added that their results should be considered preliminary, but could eventually lead to artificial tissue grafts derived from the range of cells found in the human retina.

“The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases,” the study authors said in a statement from the Institute of Physics. “The retina is an exquisitely organized structure where the precise arrangement of cells in relation to one another is critical for effective visual function"

"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,” they added. “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 inkjet device used in the study ejected the cells through a tiny nozzle less than a millimeter in diameter. The study team said they used high-speed, high-definition video to record, review and refine their process.

"In order 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 study author Wen-Kai Hsiao, from the Inkjet Research Centre at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

After printing the cells, the study team conducted a series of tests on each type of cell to determine how many of the cells were viable and how the process affected their capacity to survive and grow.

"We plan to extend this study to print other cells of the retina and to investigate if light-sensitive photoreceptors can be successfully printed using inkjet technology,” said study author Keith Martin, from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge. “In addition, we would like to further develop our printing process to be suitable for commercial, multi-nozzle print heads.”

Lately, biomedical scientists have been elevating the use of printing technology as earlier this year, MIT scientists developed a process that allows them to turn 3-D computer designs into physical fracture-resistant bone-like structures within just a few hours, according to their report, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials on Jun 17, 2013.

While some of physical samples created by the team fracture similarly to bones, one of the synthetic structures hierarchical design was changed such that it is 22 times more fracture-resistant than its strongest component material.