You could soon have your corneas 3D-printed if anything was to go wrong with your eyes.
That's according to a North Carolina-based start-up called Precise Bio that has been working on bio-printing tissues for a variety of medical applications.
Bioprinters are a specialised type of 3D printers. Instead of putting down layers of plastic or metal to gradually build a structure, they put down layers of cells and biocompatible materials to build tissue.
The company, who was founded by several professors at the renowned Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicin, just announced that its first products will be for the eye, starting with a human cornea suitable for transplantation.
While the technology is far from ready for the clinic, the firm's big cheese said it has the potential to transform the treatment of serious ophthalmic diseases and conditions.
"Based in part on the requests and suggestions from these key audiences, we are currently pursuing different ophthalmic programs, two of which are being undertaken with collaborators," Aryeh Batt, co-founder and CEO of Precise Bio, told IEEE Spectrum.
"As the first company to transplant a 3D-printed corneal graft in animals, we are uniquely positioned to advance the use of bio-printed tissues in ophthalmology."
She added that establishing a business unit dedicated to realising this potential will support "our future financing strategies" and ensure that financial resources are aligned in a market with an estimated $10 billion.
"We plan to put our printers in eye banks," she added.
Researchers have been trying to figure out how to print out complex tissue structures with blood vessels and nerves for a long time, but Precise Bio thinks it can solve the problem with its 4D-bio-fabrication technology, which comprises cell expansion, bio-materials, processes, printing technology and other required critical technologies.
"Key advantages of this platform compared with other bio-fabrication approaches are that it is able to generate complex tissues in a highly reproducible manner and to apply lessons learned from the fabrication of one tissue to the next," the company claimed in a statement.
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