The cells remained healthy after being "printed", retaining their ability to survive and grow in culture, they reported in the British journal Biofabrication.
Three-dimensional printing is one of the new frontiers in engineering.
In that field, liquid or powdered polymers are substituted for ink. Sprayed in layers, the plastic forms a 3D shape - a boon for designers or exporters, for example, who want to show off a model of their product.
But biotechnologists are also interested in printing, given the potential it offers |for building artificial tissue in layers.
This is the first time that the technology has been used to successfully print mature cells from the central nervous system, the scientists said this week. They cautioned, however, that much work lay ahead.
"The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases," they said.
"The retina is an exquisitely organised structure, where the precise arrangement of cells in relation to one another is critical for effective visual function."
The team used a piezoelectric inkjet printer head, which expelled so-called glia cells and retinal ganglion cells from adult lab rats through a single nozzle less than 1mm across.
The feat is important, because inkjet fluid has a narrow margin of error in terms of viscosity and surface tension.
"Adding cells to the liquid complicates its properties significantly," said inkjet engineer
The only hitch was a large loss in the number of cells through sedimentation, meaning that they tended to sink |to the bottom of the fluid |reservoir and could not be printed.
But the cells that were printed were undamaged and sound. The delicate cellular membranes survived, despite the high speed at which they were ejected.
The next steps will be to see if other retinal cells, including light-sensitive photo-receptors, can be successfully printed and experiment with commercial print heads, which use multiple nozzles. - Sapa-AFP
Most Popular Stories
- Dmytro Firtash, Ukrainian Billionaire, Arrested in Vienna
- Obama, Ukraine Discuss Russian Incursion in Crimea
- Koch Brothers Step up Anti-Obamacare Campaign
- FDIC Sues Big Banks Over Rate Manipulation
- Obama's Overtime Initiative Praised, Condemned
- Liberty Media Drops Sirius Bid
- Republicans Warn Obama on Immigration
- West Readies Harsh Sanctions Against Russia
- Calumet Photo Files for Bankruptcy
- Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich President, Gets Prison for Tax Evasion