Researchers in the United Kingdom Create Viable Retinal Cells via Inkjet Printing Technology

cover of Biofabrication

Here is some interesting – and startling – scientific news as we enter 2014: Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have used inkjet printing technology to successfully print retinal cells.

The results provide “proof of concept” that an inkjet printer can be used to print two types of retinal cells from adult rats: ganglion cells and glial cells.

Ganglion cells are a type of nerve cell that is found in the retina. Glia are non-nerve cells that provide support and protection for neurons in the brain and nervous system. This development could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from human retinal cells and could also contribute to a potential cure for retinal disease that leads to blindness.

The research, entitled Adult rat retinal ganglion cells and glia can be printed by piezoelectric inkjet printing, was published on December 17, 2013 in Biofabrication. The journal Biofabrication focuses on using cells, proteins, and biomaterials as building blocks to fabricate advanced biological models and medical therapeutic products.

The authors are Barbara Lorber, Wen-Kai Hsiao, Ian M. Hutchings, and Keith R. Martin, who represent the following institutions: the University of Cambridge; the Cambridge NIHR Biomedical Research Centre; and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

About the Research

From Scientists ‘print’ new eye cells at the BBC News – Health:

Scientists say they have been able to successfully print new eye cells that could be used to treat sight loss. The proof-of-principle work in the journal Biofabrication was carried out using animal cells.

The Cambridge University team says it paves the way for grow-your-own therapies for people with damage to the light-sensitive layer of tissue at back of the eye – the retina. More tests are needed before human trials can begin.

At the moment the results are preliminary and show that an inkjet printer can be used to print two types of cells from the retina of adult rats: ganglion cells and glial cells. These are the cells that transmit information from the eye to certain parts of the brain, and provide support and protection for neurons. The printed cells remained healthy and retained their ability to survive and grow in culture.

Co-authors of the study Prof. Keith Martin and Dr. Barbara Lorber, from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge, said: “Our study has shown, for the first time, that cells derived from the mature central nervous system, the eye, can be printed using an … 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.”

They now plan to attempt to print other types of retinal cells, including the light-sensitive photoreceptors – rods and cones.

More about the Study from Biofabrication

From Adult rat retinal ganglion cells and glia can be printed by inkjet printing:

Inkjet printing of cells is an emerging technology to create cell-based structures essential in many regenerative medicine applications. There is great need in several neurodegenerative diseases and injuries of the brain and the spinal cord to find alternative methods to replace degenerated and injured cells and provide growth-promoting substrates [i.e., an underlying substance or layer] for regenerating cells in order to promote functional recovery.

We are not aware of any studies where inkjet technology has been used successfully to print viable cells derived from the eye, or any other part of the mature adult central nervous system, which is an important step in the development of tissue grafts for regenerative medicine, and may aid in the cure of blindness.

We have investigated whether inkjet printing technology can be extended to print cells of the adult rat central nervous system, retinal ganglion cells, and glia, and the effects on survival and growth of these cells in culture, which is an important step in the development of tissue grafts for regenerative medicine, and may aid in the cure of blindness.

We observed that retinal ganglion cells and glia can be successfully printed using a piezoelectric printer. Importantly, the viability of the cells was not affected by the printing process.

In conclusion, printing of retinal ganglion cells and glia using a piezoelectric printhead does not adversely affect viability and survival/growth of the cells in culture. Importantly, printed glial cells retain their growth-promoting properties when used as a substrate, opening new avenues for printed central nervous system grafts in regenerative medicine.

More Information about the Eye at VisionAware

Content from this research has been used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.