Steve Verze is a 47-year-old engineer from Hackney in East London, and this week he had an innovative 3D printed prosthesis applied to his left eye - what do you think? He says he was great.
He's right, there is something to celebrate: Steve has become the first patient in the world to have a 3D printed eye. The new ocular prosthesis was created by Moorfields Eye Hospital, and is the first of its kind ever.
A different eye
The peculiarity of this eye is that it shows two decisive advances in two different technologies in one fell swoop. First of all he tells us what is now almost a consecration: 3D printing works by developing increasingly precise and detailed products. The pupil has "a definition never had before," reads a press release from the hospital.
Consider the fact that prosthetic eyes appear to have stopped decades ago: current ones consist of a hand-painted iris on a disc that is then incorporated into the eye socket. Their design prevents light from passing into the "full depth" of the eye, which produces an unrealistic effect. It is already a pain not to see in one eye, bad that there is also embarrassment in looking at oneself.
In addition to appearing more realistic, the procedure is considered less invasive. Adapting traditional prosthetics requires taking a mold of the eye socket, while in developing the 3D prosthetic eye the socket is digitally scanned to create a detailed image. Verze's functional eye was also scanned to ensure a perfect look. The 3D scan was then sent to Germany to be printed before being sent back to the UK where it was finished in Moorfields Eye Hospital.
Outside and Inside
"I've needed a prosthesis since I was 20 and have always felt uncomfortable," Verze said in the press release.
When I leave the house, I often look at myself a second time in the mirror and I don't like what I see. This new eye looks fantastic, and being based on 3D digital printing technology it will only get better.
3D printing halves the time needed to develop an ocular prosthesis, from six weeks to about two or three. A spokesperson for Moorfields Eye Hospital confirmed it will soon begin a clinical trial involving more patients. Professor Mandeep Sagoo, clinical manager of the project, said he was "excited" about the potential of the new development method.
I hope two things: first, that the upcoming clinical trial provides solid evidence on the value of this new technology, showing the difference it makes for patients. Second, that after the "aesthetic" part, functionalities are also integrated (also electronic, when not genetic, such as for example this one, or this) to make this eye not only natural to see, but also functioning like a real one.