January 20, 2014 – For those suffering from macular degeneration, inkjet printers may prove to be a curative. University of Cambridge researchers have been able to print rat cells and grow them in a culture. The cells were taken from the retinas of rats and deposited using an inkjet printer to repair retinal damage. The inkjet technology can be used to grow the retinal tissue outside the eye for implantation, or can directly inserted into a damaged retina during surgery.
The research was recently published in the December issue of IOP Science. The study tested the effects of inkjet printing on two types of adult rat cells, retinal ganglion neurons and retinal glia. The researchers assessed the survival of tissue generated this way and the ability for it to regenerate damaged retinas. This is the first time that mature neurons have been successfully printed. Previously only embryonic cells were suspected of having the ability to survive inkjet printing processes.
The next stage is to further test the viability of the cells over the long term. Then the researchers plan to print other cells from the eye including photo receptors and retinal pigment epithelial cells. If they can achieve similar results they will be well on their way to rebuilding damaged retinas, that is, if they can then put all these different tissues together in layers in the same way they appear in the eye, and if the cells ultimately interact with the brain through the optic nerve.
A lot of ifs to overcome but it appears we are learning that the lowly inkjet printer may prove to be a great biomedical solution for restoring damaged tissue. For those suffering from degenerative eye diseases such as macular degeneration, this type of investigational research holds great promise.