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Scientists use 3D printing and patient stem cells to assist hundreds of thousands with eye problems  

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Scientists have found out a option to create eye tissue using stem cells and 3D printing – in latest research that may lead to breakthroughs in treating a spread of degenerative eye diseases. 

A team of researchers from the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, printed a mix of cells that form the outer blood-retina barrier—eye tissue that supports the retina’s light-sensing photoreceptors. 

Their technique provides a theoretically unlimited supply of patient-derived tissue to check degenerative retinal diseases similar to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – and use them to higher understand the best way to treat or cure these diseases. 

‘We all know that AMD starts within the outer blood-retina barrier,’ said Kapil Bharti, Ph.D., who heads the NEI Section on Ocular and Stem Cell Translational Research.

Scientists have found out a option to create eye tissue – in latest research that may lead to breakthroughs in treating a spread of degenerative eye diseases

‘Nonetheless, mechanisms of AMD initiation and progression to advanced dry and wet stages remain poorly understood because of the shortage of physiologically relevant human models,’ he explained in a statement.

The attention’s outer blood-retina barrier consists of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which is separated by Bruch’s membrane from the choriocapillaris. The membrane regulates how nutrients and waste are moved between the RPE and the choriocapillaris. 

In individuals with AMD, lipoprotein deposits called drusen form outside Bruch’s membrane, stopping it from functioning properly. 

Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from some type of age-related macular degeneration. It is the leading reason behind vision loss in Americans age 60 and older; it is also the leading reason behind irreversible blindness and vision loss worldwide. 

‘Our collaborative efforts have resulted in very relevant retina tissue models of degenerative eye diseases,’ co-author Marc Ferrer, director of the 3D Tissue Bioprinting Laboratory at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, said. 

‘Such tissue models have many potential uses in translational applications, including therapeutics development.’ 

Bharti and colleagues combined three immature choroidal cell types in a hydrogel: pericytes and endothelial cells, that are key components of capillaries; and fibroblasts, which give tissues structure. 

Next, they printed the gel on a biodegradable scaffold, and inside a number of days, the cells began to mature right into a dense capillary network. 

By day nine, the scientists seeded retinal pigment epithelial cells on the opposite side of the scaffold. Just over a month after that, the tissue reached full maturity. 

The outer blood-retina barrier is the interface of the retina and the choroid, including Bruch's membrane and the choriocapillaris

The outer blood-retina barrier is the interface of the retina and the choroid, including Bruch’s membrane and the choriocapillaris

The printed tissue looked and behaved similarly to native outer blood-retina barrier, in keeping with the researchers’ evaluation and testing. 

Under induced stress, the printed tissue exhibited patterns of early AMD similar to drusen deposits underneath the RPE and progression to late dry stage AMD. 

‘By printing cells, we’re facilitating the exchange of cellular cues which might be vital for normal outer blood-retina barrier anatomy,’ explained Bharti. 

‘For instance, presence of RPE cells induces gene expression changes in fibroblasts that contribute to the formation of Bruch’s membrane – something that was suggested a few years ago but wasn’t proven until our model.’

The scientists published the outcomes of their work today in Nature Methods

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