Researchers 3D Bioprint Human Corneas | Materials Science, Medicine

We can now 3D print corneas that could save 15 million people from going blind

If we can produce usable corneas in the laboratory, then many of these people might be helped, something that the researchers from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom explain has been the aim for many scientists for a long time. The whole process took just 10 minutes.

Believe it or not, over 15M people a year need cornea transplant - only 44,000 are completed due to lack of supply.

The cornea is the transparent, outermost layer forming the front of the eye which plays a key role in vision by controlling and focusing the entry of light into the eye.

A total of 10 million people worldwide require surgery to prevent corneal blindness but there is widespread lack of corneas ready for transplants. They mixed the cornea stem cells with two different chemical components, alginate and collagen, to create "bio-ink".

They fed this substance through a simple, low-priced 3D bio-printer into concentric circles roughly the shape of a human cornea.

It was tricky to find the right recipe for an ink that's thin enough to squirt through a 3D printer's nozzle, says Che Connon, a tissue engineer at Newcastle University.

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Previously, the same team had used a similar hydrogel to keep stem cells alive for weeks at room temperature. Instead of replacing one damaged cornea with one healthy one, you could grow enough cells from one donated cornea to print 50 artificial ones. " 3D technology also allows them to adapt the shape and size of the cornea to the patient's eye". While it's likely patients will have to wait "several years" before these 3D-printed corneas are available in an official capacity, they still represent incredible hope for those with more severe corneal-related impairments.

Article adapted from a Newcastle University news release. Gelatinous and multicellular, the artificial corneas are valuable steps towards much needed solutions for the millions of people suffering from eye disease and severe damage around the world.

Professor Che Connon and Dr. Steve Swioklo created the very first 3D human corneas for a study that was published in Experimental Eye Research.

Dimensions for the 3D printed tissue were taken from a real human cornea. However, they were created with the help of a 3D printer.

The awesome thing about the 3D-printed human corneas is that they can be custom made, notes the university. He also added that doctors could easily tailor the exact shape of the 3D-printed corneas through a 3D image or a set of coordinates. The new technique, which could produce multiple corneas per donor, might help reduce that deficit if put into practice.

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