Could 3D bioprinting prevent vision loss? | Medexec
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Groundbreaking research from the National Eye Institute (NEI), a sector of the The National Institutes of Health, moves us one step closer to answering this question. Their industry leading work in pioneering MedTech proves positive for a cure to age-related macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that affects the middle part of your vision, typically it begins to worsen in people in their 50s and 60s. This is when a large number of people begin to find themselves struggling when reading or recognising faces without the aid of glasses or contact lenses.

To really outline just how many people are affected with AMD; A report from the BrightFocus Foundation found that 'nearly 20 million people in the United States are living with some form of the disease.' When you look at the population of the US - 332 million. This tells us that over 6% of people in the US alone suffer from AMD, an unquestionably large amount which increases year on year as we see an increase in our global screentime. According to the latest available data from DataReportal, the average person spends 6 hours and 58 minutes per day on screens connected to the internet. An increase of 1% (4 minutes) from 2021.

Resulting factors of AMD is that the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the tissue breaks down, leading to photoreceptor degeneration and eventual vision impairment.

Below is a graphic which demonstrates the difference between normal eye tissue (left) and that which is affected by age-related macular degeneration (right).

Age Macular Degeneration eye infographic

Using new advancements in MedTech such as 3D bioprinting, the research scientists at the NEI created three cell types, which had been derived from patients' affected by AMD's stem cells. These were pericytes, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts. Once created, they combine them and 3D bioprint the cells in a gel. The tissue is then left to grow for several weeks until it is an accurate example of AMD affected eye tissue at the back of the eye.

Moving far beyond research attempting to replicate AMD with eye tissue from animals, which is often inaccurate, not to mention unethical. This innovative technique marks a clear progression in medical research and underlines the powers of technology in healthcare. Whilst the research is still relatively new, the NEI is confident that this is going to be the future of healthcare as they can now create an unlimited amount of 3d bioprinted eye tissue on which to conduct studies on the effectiveness of different treatments. This will allow for much more in-depth and relevant analysis.

Could this help lead us to not only finding the cure to age-related macular degeneration, but the cure to all eye related diseases in the future?

The future looks bright & hopefully clear...