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Researchers Create Prototype for a 'Bionic Eye'
Revolutionary breakthrough using a multimaterial 3D printer

BREAKING NEWS: A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota has taken a bold step towards creating a 'bionic eye' that could someday help blind people see or sighted people see better.

WHY IT’S A BIG DEAL: “What the team actually did was create a prototype using a 3D printer to print an array of light receptors on a domed surface, which has never been done before,” explains Sandy Feldman MD, Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego. "‘Bionic eyes’ are usually thought of as science fiction, but now we are closer than ever before to making them a reality.”

HOW THEY DID IT: Researchers started with a hemispherical glass dome to show how they could overcome the challenge of printing electronics on a curved surface. Using a custom-built 3D printer, they started with a base ink of silver particles. The dispensed ink stayed in place and dried uniformly instead of running down the curved surface. The researchers then used semiconducting polymer materials to print photodiodes, which convert light into electricity. The entire process took about an hour.

The possibility that 3D-printed semiconductors could someday rival similar devices made the conventional way is pretty mind-blowing,” says Dr. Feldman. “What’s especially exciting for eye surgeons like me is this newfound ability print electronics on a curved surface.”

The team’s lead researcher, Michael McAlpine, received international attention a few years ago for printing a "bionic ear." His next quest - to create a bionic eye - is a little more personal.

"His mother is blind in one eye, and whenever he talked to her about his work, she’d ask him, 'When are you going to print me a bionic eye?'” Dr. Feldman says. “If that wasn’t motivation to keep pushing the boundaries of science and medicine, I don’t know what is.”

WHO: Dr. Sandy Feldman, one of the nation’s top ophthalmologists and LASIK experts.

CONTACT: I can arrange an interview with Dr. Feldman to discuss bionic eyes or any other eye-related topic. Contact Diana Soltesz at [email protected] or 818-618-5634.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: Sandy T. Feldman MD is the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center and a world-renowned corneal expert who has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Clearview has been voted Best LASIK center by the San Diego Union Tribune (five times) and by CityBeat Magazine (three times). Dr. Feldman’s many awards include Top Doc San Diego; the Goldline Award, an honor granted to the top 10 laser eye care specialists in the U.S.; and the Silver Elite RealSelf Award. She has also been profiled in publications such as Forbes and Newsweek and makes frequent appearances as an expert commentator on TV talk shows and news programs. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. More details at clearvieweyes.com.

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