The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded $90,000 to a team from the University of Maryland for its proposal to develop a living model of a human retina with the help of 3D printing.
The $90K award was given as part of the NEI’s 3D Retina Organoid Challenge (3-D ROC), which is part of a larger initiative aimed at innovating and advancing the field of retinal organoid research, especially for the treatment of retinal diseases.
According to the NEI, retinal diseases and other vision-related ailments affect millions of Americans (1.3 million Americans are blind, and 2.9 million are deemed to have low vision). That is why the NEI is working to advance treatments for disease and age-related visual impairments.
The winning proposal of the NEI’s 3-D ROC was submitted by a University of Maryland team led by Erin Lavik, ScD, and is being lauded for its “scalability, efficacy, and reproducibility.” In short, the team proposed a method for creating a living retina model which involved printing layers of adult neural progenitor-derived retinal neurons into a retina-like structure.
This 3D bioprinting process, deemed the most feasible and promising by a panel of NEI judges, could be used for drug testing and, importantly, could help improve treatments for macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other retina-related diseases and conditions.