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Bioprinting breakthrough: UK researchers print eye cells

The emerging field of bioprinting in regenerative medicine has achieved a new milestone with the use of an inkjet printer to print two types of cells from the retina of adult rats. It is the first time the technology has been used successfully to print mature central nervous system cells, according to researchers from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

PlasticsToday Staff

January 7, 2014

2 Min Read
Bioprinting breakthrough: UK researchers print eye cells

The emerging field of bioprinting in regenerative medicine has achieved a new milestone with the use of an inkjet printer to print two types of cells from the retina of adult rats. It is the first time the technology has been used successfully to print mature central nervous system cells, according to researchers from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The printed ganglion and glial cells remained healthy and were able to survive and grow in culture, said Professor Keith Martin and Dr Barbara Lorber, who co-authored the study published in the journal Biofabrication.

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Image courtesy Desirae
via Flickr.

"The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases," said Martin and Lorber in a press release published on the University of Cambridge website. "The retina is an exquisitely organised 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. 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," added Martin and Lorber.

In the study, a piezoelectric inkjet printer ejected the cells through a submillimeter-diameter nozzle when a specific electrical pulse was applied. High-speed video technology was used to record the printing 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," commented Dr Wen-Kai Hsiao, another member of the team based at the Inkjet Research Centre in Cambridge.

The researchers plan to extend the study to print other cells of the retina and to investigate if light-sensitive photoreceptors can be successfully printed.

Prof. Ian Hutchings from the Inkjet Research Centre also contributed to the research, which was funded by the nonprofit Fight for Sight organization, the van Geest Foundation, and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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