The attached DNews video from YouTube gives a good video description about the Cambridge University study to print eye, nerve cells with an inkjet printer. The video was posted yesterday Dec. 18, 2013. Medical Xpress posted an article on the same subject Dec. 17, 2013 about the study published in IOPScience Biofabrication on the same date. This is news because this is the first time that cells from a CNS (central nervous system) have been printed. The lead members of the Cambridge team are Barbara Lorber (Cambridge Brain Repair Center), Keith Martin and Wen-Kai Hsiao. An article was also published in the Cambridge News Dec. 18, 2013.
The Cambridge News article is excellent for the close-up image of retinal ganglion cells in a drop formed from an inkjet. No need to worry – the close-up photo and the photos in the IOPScience document should not creep you out. The eye cells printed in the study are, of course, from a laboratory rat cell culture. The original animals were treated humanely as is pointed out in the study’s Ethics Statement on page 2. The study found that not only ganglion cells were print-survivable but glial cells are too. The inkjet printer used in the study was not your standard thermal inkjet. The researchers used a piezoelectric inkjet printer instead.
Rat cells have been printed before but the significance here, again, is the printing of CNS and retina cells of the eyes. The inkjet printer must be able to dispense the fluid suspensions of cells in precise and accurate ranges of properties. The researchers used an inkjet printer from MicroFab in Texas to accomplish the desired end properties. Many more pieces and materials were used to assemble their unique printing application. The cells were subjected to strong shear forces and rates during the printing process. The survival (viability) rate of each printed cell was compared with control cells of the same. Both types of cells survived at about 69% with a given error range.
But more cell loss was observed after the jetting process – they had a tendency to “stick” to the jet capillaries. A future aim of the work may be to transfect the jetted cells directly to damaged living retinal eye tissues. Another future proposal is to move the work into multi-nozzle print heads – this study used single nozzle heads. Of course, expectations are that this work may lead to a process for curing blindness brought on by injured retinal eye cell tissues. Of course inkjet printing of retinal nerve cells into the human eye is a long ways away.