3D printing technology lets you create virtually anything you can think of. But this time the technology was used for something incredibly noble.
(Photo: Getty Images)
For the first time ever, a 3D printed eye has been implanted in a Briton at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, ITV reports. The recipient of the eye is Steve Varze, 47, who lost an eye as a child.
Varze had needed to use an ocular prosthesis since his twenties, but it seemed like nothing was right for him until 3D printing technology emerged.
With the technology, Varze now has a realistic-looking prosthetic eye which he says has given him back his confidence. Before that, he said he felt “extremely embarrassed”.
According to a CNN report, the 3D printed eye is much more realistic than other alternatives on the market. They also claimed that it was much less invasive to make and implant.
âHaving lived with this (condition) for so long, the closer you get to reality, I feel more and more confident,â Varze remarks.
Dr Mandeep Sagoo, who was the clinical lead for the project, expressed his enthusiasm for the technology in the years to come.
Speaking about the 3D printed eye fit, Sagoo said, âWe hope the next clinical trial provides us with strong evidence of the value of this new technology, showing the difference it makes for patients. “
Read also: Sectors 3D printing is revolutionizing
How was the 3D printed eye made?
Using 3D printing technology, Varze’s new left eye can be obtained in as little as two weeks, all without having to make a mold from its socket. All that was needed was a quick scan.
But before 3D printing technology, traditional alternatives were made using a disc with a hand-painted image of an iris. Placement of this type of prosthetic eye also required making a mold of the orbit, which is considered quite invasive.
Additionally, making the eye socket mold also takes around two hours, with the entire prosthesis making process taking around six weeks.
For Varze’s new eye, data collected from a scan of its orbit was sent to another team in Germany, which was responsible for printing the prosthetic eye.
(Photo: Getty Images)
While the new 3D printing technique has cut production time in half, a team at Moorfields is now looking to cut turnaround time even further. They claim that while it may take weeks right now, the future could see finished, ready-to-use prosthetic eyes within days.
The future of 3D printing in healthcare
3D printed organs like Varze’s prosthetic eye are currently undergoing further testing and improvement. Under the right circumstances, experts hope these organs will be able to solve the global transplant shortage, according to The Conversation.
Researchers now need to figure out how to make transplantation of these 3D printed organs safer.
Associated article: 3D bio-printed mini kidneys have been successfully manufactured inside a lab: a technology capable of printing 200 per 10 minutes
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Written by RJ Pierce
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