We recently received a request looking for expertise in medical 3D printing. From visits to research labs across the world, I know that 3D Printing Industry has become a valued source of information. With this in mind readers with expertise are invited to contact Michael Reber, PhD, the author of the following article.
Developing 3D printing to cure eye diseases by Michael Reber, PhD
As a neuroscience research laboratory, we are seeking expertise from professionals in 3D printing to collaborate on the printing of silk nanofibers used in eye disease models.
The transfer of the visual information from the eye to the brain runs through the optic nerve and is the first step of visual processing. If this transfer is altered, visual perception decreases eventually leading to vision loss.
This scenario occurs in several diseases like glaucoma, dominant optic atrophy or Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy resulting in a degeneration of the retinal ganglion cells axons which form the optic nerve. As an example, glaucoma itself will affect 76 million people world-wide by 2020 becoming a major health and economic burden.
In 2011, we showed that engineered silk nanofibers, containing specific factors, support and promote retinal ganglion cells regeneration and regrowth (Wittmer et al., 2011, Adv. Funct. Mater.). In this work, an aqueous solution of silk (fibroin) containing growth and survival-promoting molecules (or biofunctionalized silk) is electrospun on glass coverslips to form aligned nanofibers. When retinal ganglion cells are in contact with these biofunctionalized silk nanofibers, they use them as a physical support and as a nutrient supply to grow and regenerate.
The electrospinning technique is arduous, difficult, time-consuming and requires extensive training. The device occupies a significant amount of space.
The future of our research on neuron regeneration relies on a fast, easy-to-use and reproducible technique to engineer biofunctionalized aligned silk nanofibers and implantable silk scaffolds with high resolution (< 1 µm).
We believe 3D printing can do the job! However, to our knowledge, there are no such 3D printers on the market.
We are seeking expertise from professionals in the field of 3D printing able to collaborate on a R&D project to generate these biocompatible silk devices.
Nanotechnology applied to medicine is a fast-growing field of research. How to protect degeneration of the nervous system, due to disease or injury, is a fundamental question in neurology and several tools are being developed. One of them is implanting biocompatible material that will support the regeneration of neuronal cells. Biofunctionalized silk fibers have shown to be very efficient in promoting and protecting retinal neurons from degeneration, validating the proof-of-concept. The next step is to develop techniques to easily reliably and quickly produce silk nanofibers that could in the near future be implanted in patients suffering from eye diseases. Vision care devices segment dominates the global ophthalmology market, estimated at $18 billion by 2018.
Who we are
We are a neuroscience research lab, currently at CNRS UPR3212 in Strasbourg, France and starting at the Donald K Johnson Eye Institute, Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network, in Toronto, Ca, on April 1, 2018. We study vision understanding how visual information is transferred to the brain and processed. We use experimental and computational/modelling approaches to address these questions. Joining the DJK Eye Institute puts us in the best environment possible to address such questions as this institute hosts world-leading ophthalmologists in the field of retinal diseases.
You can reach Michael Reber via LinkedIn, alternatively contact 3D Printing Industry.
Featured image is a microscopy picture of biofunctionalized aligned silk fibers showing their morphology when electrospun at 10 m/s (speed of the rotating wheel, scale bar: 5 µm).