3D-printed prosthetic eye tech to begin clinical trial in the UK
Ordinarily when someone requires a prosthetic eye, a mold has to be made of their eye socket, after which the prosthesis is built by hand. A new 3D printing system, however, is claimed to be much quicker, and to produce a more realistic-looking eye.
The technology was developed via a partnership between Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research and British company Ocupeye.
Initially, a specially modified Tomey ophthalmic scanner is used to non-invasively perform a 2.4-second non-ionizing scan of the patient's empty eye socket. Utilizing Fraunhofer's Cuttlefish:Eye software, the scan data is then combined with a color-calibrated photo of the patient's remaining eye.
This results in a 3D computer model of the prosthetic eye, which is used to guide a multi-color, multi-material 3D printer as it prints the actual eye out of unspecified biocompatible materials. Once polished, the finished product is claimed to look more like a real eye than a typical handmade prosthesis – yet it's ready to go in a much shorter amount of time.
The technology will soon be trialled on approximately 40 patients at Moorfields Eye Hospital London. After initially being fitted with a custom 3D-printed eye, each participant will be examined at regular intervals over the course of a year. It is believed that just one printer could ultimately produce the 10,000 prostheses currently required in the UK on an annual basis.
"We hope the forthcoming clinical trial will provide us with robust evidence about the value of this new technology, showing what a difference it makes for patients," says Moorefields' Prof. Mandeep Sagoo. "It clearly has the potential to reduce waiting lists."