UK , Next Media - Scientists from the University of Cambridge have successfully printed eye cells using a piezoelectric inkjet printer device for the very first time, which could lead to a new cure for blindness.
Blindness is commonly caused by the degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the retina. In such cases repairing the membrane is key to curing sight loss.
The team used a printhead — a glass capillary tapered to a tiny nozzle — to print retina cells. Printed cells are ejected through the nozzle when a specified electrical pulse is applied. The device can eject the two types of eye cells by using nozzles of different sizes.
The process had to be carefully controlled. “In order for a fluid to print well from an inkjet printhead, its properties, such as viscosity and surface tension, need to conform to a fairly narrow range of values,” said Dr Wen-Kai Hsiao, one of the scientists who participated in the study.
Thermal printers have been used in previous studies to replicate cells, as it is believed that piezoelectric printers may disrupt cell membranes and lead to cell death. This is the first study to successfully create cells that survived and thrived in culture by using piezoelectric printers.
Even though the results are preliminary, the institution said they demonstrate “proof-of-principle,” which shows the possibility of printing eye cells with inkjet printers. More studies have to be carried out before human trial can begin.
Researchers are planning to print other retina cells in future studies.
SOURCES: International Business Times, Wired, The University of Cambridge, IOP Publishing