One of the scenes in the 1980s cult science fiction film “Bladerunner” concerns a vendor who sells artificial eyes. According to 3DPrint.com, what was once science fiction is about to become reality, thanks to the magic of 3D printers. In real life, the 3D printed eyes are likely to become reality in 2027, not 2019 when the movie took place. The artificial eyes will be for human beings, rather than replicant androids.
Replacing the lens of the eye has been a common procedure for quite a while. Researchers are also working on repairing damaged retinas. But the idea proposed by an Italian research group called MHOX is to replace the human eyeball with an enhanced, 3D printed version.
An eye transplant would address a whole range of vision dysfunctions, ranging from nearsightedness to macular degeneration to total blindness. In theory, the procedure would render much of the specialty of ophthalmology obsolete. People with vision defects would not have to get eyeglasses or contact lenses. They would get a new eye, grown from their genetic material. Blindness would mostly become a thing of the past except for cases in which malformation in or damage to the brain causes vision loss.
Even more exciting, the Italian researchers hold out the possibility of these printed eyes being enhanced. These eyes could be upgradable, thanks to the insertion of a “deck” behind the eyeball that makes it easier to change the eyes out. The artificial eyes could also have a WiFi connection, which would enable them to double as a camera or a video recorder. One could download images to a device for later perusal. In short, the 3D printed eye can not only restore sight, but also enhance the sight people already have.