What can you print with an inkjet printer? Researchers from the UK's University of Cambridge have added eye cells to the list.
The scientists printed two types of central nervous system cells (PDF) from the retinas of adult rats: ganglion cells (which transmit information from the eye to the brain), and glial cells (which provide protection and support for neurons). The resulting cells were able to grow normally and remain healthy in culture.
"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," said study co-authors Keith Martin and Barbara Lorber, both of the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair at the University of Cambridge. "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."
A piezoelectric inkjet printer ejects cells through a sub-millimeter diameter nozzle when an electric pulse is applied.
"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," Wen-Kai Hsiao, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained. "Adding cells to the fluid complicates its properties significantly."
The research team published its research in the IOP Publishing's open-access journal Biofabrication and plans to extend this study to print other cells of the retina and light-sensitive photoreceptors.