The future is looking brighter, and much clearer for millions of people across the world suffering from cornea damage. For the first time ever, scientists have produced an artificial human cornea by 3D printer.
Researchers at Newcastle University in the UK may have found the solution to the significant shortage of corneas available for transplant, showing how we could potentially manufacture this piece of anatomy for ourselves. “Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible, according to Che Connon, Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University, who led the work.
The challenge was acquiring an infrastructure that “keeps the stem cells alive whilst producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D printer,” according to Newcastle scientists. Their success came from a product that uses human corneal stromal cells from a donor cornea with alginate and collagen to achieve a printable bio-ink that can turn into a living cornea. So by way of just one donor, multiple patients can be helped.
In a short 10 minutes, a cheap 3D printers can produce the new cornea, while the gel can remain alive for days, allowing for multiple corneas to be produced within a week. ScienceDaily.com reported that the scientists, including first author and PhD student Ms. Abigail Isaacson from the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, also demonstrated that they could build a cornea to match a patient’s unique specifications. Simply by scanning the patient’s eye, doctors can use the data to print a cornea which matches the necessary size and shape.
With 10 million people worldwide requiring transplants to eliminate vision problems and prevent corneal blindness, Professor Connon added, “that this approach has potential to combat the world-wide shortage.” Patients will need to be patient, however, as Connon advises that the 3D printed corneas will now undergo further testing, requiring years before doctors are in an actual position to use them on their patients.
But with this incredible “first” in vision technology, the end to cornea-related blindness is in sight for millions of people all over the world.
(2018, May 29). First 3D-printed human corneas. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180529223312.htm
Biggs, J. (2018, May 31). Researchers create the first 3D-printed corneas. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/31/researchers-create-the-first-3d-printed-corneas/