Posted on Jun 08, 2018, 6 p.m.
Human corneas have been 3D printed by researchers at Newcastle University, UK for the first time, a technique that may be used in the very near future to ensure an unlimited supply of human corneas for implants, as published in Experimental Eye Research.
The cornea, the outermost layer of the human eye, plays important role in focus, and there is a shortage of corneas available for transplant. It is estimated that there are 10 million people worldwide who require surgery to prevent corneal blindness stemming from diseases, and another 5 million people suffer total blindness due to corneal scarring caused by abrasion, burns, lacerations, and disease.
Stem cells taken from a healthy donor were mixed with alginate and collagen to create a bioink solution for printing, which was extruded into concentric circles to form human cornea shape, that took less than 10 minutes to successfully print. Gel combination of collagen and alginate keeps stem cells alive, while producing a material stiff enough to hold shape, that is also soft enough to squeeze out of the 3D printer nozzle. Bioink contains stem cells allowing printing of tissues without needing to grow cells separately.
3D printed corneas now need to undergo additional testing before being in a position where they are used in transplants. The results of this study has shown the feasibility of printing corneas using coordinates taken from patient eyes, and potential to combat the corneas shortage worldwide in patients needing transplant.
Materials provided by Newcastle University.
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Isaacson A, Swioklo S, Connon C. 3D bioprinting of a corneal stroma equivalent. Experimental Eye Research, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.exer.2018.05.010
3D Bioprinting of a Corneal Stroma Equivalent. Abigail Isaacson, Stephen Swioklo, Che J. Connon. Experimental Eye Research.