Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

First 3D-printed human corneas can aid transplants

First 3D-printed human corneas can aid transplants

But Professor Connon emphasised that the breakthrough requires further testing, which could last years. To do this, they mixed stem cells from a healthy donor cornea with a gel and collagen to create a printable bio-ink.

Scientists have 3D printed corneas for the first time in new research, offering hope to the million-s of people around the world whose eyesight is affected by damage to the delicate tissue.

Scientists at the University of Newcastle have printed a human cornea in 3D using stem cells.

"The cornea acts as a barrier between your eye and the outside world, helping to protect it from injury and infection". In fact, over 10 million people worldwide are in need of eye surgery to prevent potential corneal blindness.

According to experts, the gel allows you to maintain the activity of stem cells during the creation of the material.

As the outermost layer of the human eye, the cornea has an important role in focusing vision, but there is a significant shortage of corneas available to transplant. The bio-ink served as a solution used for 3D printing of complex tissue models. People can donate their corneas after they die, however, the demand now outweighs the supply.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle in England report that they managed to replicate human corneas using a 3D printer and a "bio-ink" made of stem cells from a donor cornea, alginate (a substance found in algae) and the protein collagen. They do this by taking the dimensions of the actual cornea through scanning. It also needed to support 3D printed structure by being stiff enough. The research is now just a proof-of-concept but lays the groundwork for future techniques to create low-priced, easy-to-produce bionic eyes. They scan the patient's eye and the new cornea should be the exact size and shape of the cornea it will replace.

Researchers at Newcastle University announced their proof-of-concept work this week, explaining how the cornea was "printed" in under ten minutes.

Corneal transplantation is one of the leading treatments for loss of corneal function, but due to its limitations, tissue engineers have been trying to create functional, synthetic corneal prostheses that can be used as an alternative. Connon adds that they are not alone in their research, with many teams now engaged in creating bio-inks for creating 3D printed corneas.

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