A group of researchers from the UK have used inkjet printing technology to successfully print cells taken from the eye for the very first time.
The breakthrough, which has been detailed in a paper published today, 18 December, in IOP Publishing's journal Biofabrication, could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from the variety of cells found in the human retina and may aid in the search to cure blindness.
At the moment the results are preliminary and provide proof-of-principle that an inkjet printer can be used to print two types of cells from the retina of adult rats―ganglion cells and glial cells. This is the first time the technology has been used successfully to print mature central nervous system cells and the results showed that printed cells remained healthy and retained their ability to survive and grow in culture.
Co-authors of the study Professor Keith Martin and Dr Barbara Lorber, from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, said: "The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases. 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."
The ability to arrange cells into highly defined patterns and structures has recently elevated the use of 3D printing in the biomedical sciences to create cell-based structures for use in regenerative medicine.
In their study, the researchers used a piezoelectric inkjet printer device that ejected the cells through a sub-millimetre diameter nozzle when a specific electrical pulse was applied. They also used high speed video technology to record the printing process with high resolution and optimised their procedures accordingly.
"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.
Once printed, a number of tests were performed on each type of cell to see how many of the cells survived the process and how it affected their ability to survive and grow.
The cells derived from the retina of the rats were retinal ganglion cells, which transmit information from the eye to certain parts of the brain, and glial cells, which provide support and protection for neurons.
"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. In addition, we would like to further develop our printing process to be suitable for commercial, multi-nozzle print heads," Professor Martin concluded.
Notes to Editors
The research was undertaken by Dr. Barbara Lorber, also at the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair, in collaboration with Dr. Wen-Kai Hsiao and Prof. Ian Hutchings from the Inkjet Research Centre, University of Cambridge. The work was funded by Fight for Sight, the van Geest Foundation and the EPSRC.
From Wednesday 18 December, the paper can be downloaded from http://iopscience.iop.org/1758-5090/6/1/015001/article
1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop:
Tel: 0117 930 1032
For more information on how to use the embargoed material above, please refer to our embargo policy.
IOP Publishing Journalist Area
2. The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week.
Login details also give free access to IOPscience, IOP Publishing's journal platform.
To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email Michael Bishop, IOP Press Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.
Adult rat retinal ganglion cells and glia can be printed by piezoelectric inkjet printing
3. The published version of the paper 'Adult rat ganglion cells and glia can be printed by piezoelectric inkjet printer' Barbara Lorber et al 2014 Biofabrication 6 015001 will be freely available online from Wednesday 18 December. It will be available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1758-5090/6/1/015001/article
4. A journal focusing on using cells, proteins, biomaterials and/or other bioactive elements as building blocks to fabricate advanced biological models, medical therapeutic products and non-medical biological systems.
5. IOP Publishing provides a range of journals, magazines, websites and services that enable researchers and research organisations to reach the widest possible audience for their research.
We combine the culture of a learned society with global reach and highly efficient and effective publishing systems and processes. With offices in the UK, US, Germany, China and Japan, and staff in many other locations including Mexico and Russia, we serve researchers in the physical and related sciences in all parts of the world.
IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Institute of Physics. The Institute is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all. Any profits generated by IOP Publishing are used by the Institute to support science and scientists in both the developed and developing world. Go to ioppublishing.org.
The Institute of Physics
6. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications. Go to http://www.iop.org
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.