Doctors are seeing the possibilities in 3D.
A UK man made medical history Thursday after becoming the first patient in history to be outfitted with a 3D-printed eyeball as part of a cutting-edge new trial.
“This new eye looks fantastic, and being based on 3D digital printing technology, it is only going to be better and better,” London native Steve Verze told the Daily Mail of the eye-opening procedure. Currently, the groundbreaking technology is being used to replicate everything from steaks to entire neighborhoods.
The engineer, who’s in his 40s, reportedly lost his left eye in his 20s and has been using prosthetic peepers ever since.
However, Verze felt self-conscious about the artificial orbs, admitting, “When I leave my home I often take a second glance in the mirror, and I’ve not liked what I’ve seen.”
So, he opted to get one 3D-printed at Moorfields Eye Hospital, which is offering patients state-of-the-art eyeballs as part of a clinical trial aiming to expedite the peeper-replacement process — as well as make them more realistic. Accompanying photos show the patient’s replica retina, which looks indistinguishable from the real one as if digitally inserted via CGI.
And although the synthetic sight organ won’t bring back Verze’s vision, he hopes it will at least restore his confidence.
“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,” said Professor Mandeep Sagoo, a consultant opthalmologist at Moorfields.
It currently takes patients six weeks to get a new eye, which then requires them to undergo surgery, multiple appointments and a four-to-five month waiting period post-op to get a prosthetic fitted. By contrast, doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital say that the 3D-printed option could take only three weeks, the Daily Mail reported.
The patient simply receives a scan of their empty socket so that doctors can build a map of the area using the software. They then scan the good eye to ensure it is a match and send the blueprint to Germany, where the synthetic stargazer is 3D-printed within two and half hours. Finally, the finished product is sent back to the hospital and fitted to the patient.
“We are excited about the potential for this fully digital prosthetic eye,” gushed Sagoo.
Creating state-of-the-art eyeball prosthetics isn’t the only way that 3D printing is revolutionizing medicine. In August, Israeli researchers made medical history after 3D-printing models of brain cancer patients’ tumors to test the efficacy of potential treatments before employing them on real people.