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.
We have investigated whether inkjet printing technology can be extended to print cells of the adult rat central nervous system (CNS), retinal ganglion cells (RGC) 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 RGC and glia can be successfully printed using a piezoelectric printer. Whilst inkjet printing reduced the cell population due to sedimentation within the printing system, imaging of the printhead nozzle, which is the area where the cells experience the greatest shear stress and rate, confirmed that there was no evidence of destruction or even significant distortion of the cells during jet ejection and drop formation. Importantly, the viability of the cells was not affected by the printing process. When we cultured the same number of printed and non-printed RGC/glial cells, there was no significant difference in cell survival and RGC neurite outgrowth. In addition, use of a glial substrate significantly increased RGC neurite outgrowth, and this effect was retained when the cells had been printed. In conclusion, printing of RGC 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 CNS grafts in regenerative medicine.