Scientists at Cambridge University may have found a way to "print" new eye cells that could be used to restore sight in patients who suffer from certain types of blindness
The researchers were focused on two types of cells, ganglion cells and glial cells, that are found in the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye, or the retina
. These are the cells that transmit information from the eye to the brain and they also protect and support neurons. So damage to these cells can cause anything from partial to complete blindness.
Through animal studies, the Cambridge University team found that they were able to "print" new ganglion and glial cells and transplant them into the retina, effectively restoring at least some sight in the affected animals. And even restoring a small amount of sight could have a huge impact on the quality of life of a person who is blind
. It could mean the difference between living on their own and needing constant care.
Lead researchers Keith Martin and Dr. Barbara Lorber from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge noted, "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 study was recently published in the journal Biofabrication.
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