Watch How Human Corneas are 3D PrintedS. Himmelstein | May 30, 2018
Millions of patients worldwide need surgery to prevent corneal blindness resulting from disease or injury. The shortage of corneas available for transplantation might be overcome with the advent of 3D-printed human corneas.
Researchers from Newcastle University, U.K., mixed corneal stromal cells from a healthy donor with alginate and collagen to form an easily printable bio-ink, which was then extruded in concentric circles using a low-cost 3D printer to form the shape of a cornea. The mixture keeps the corneal stem cells viable while a material stiff enough to maintain its shape but sufficiently soft to be deposited by the printer nozzle is formed. The entire printing process was completed in 10 minutes.
A cornea can be fabricated to match a patient’s unique specifications. The dimensions of the printed tissue were originally taken from an actual cornea. By scanning a patient’s eye, the researchers could use the data to rapidly print a cornea that matched the size and shape.
While the development demonstrates the feasibility of printing corneas based on coordinates from a patient eye, testing will need to be conducted to ensure the safety and efficacy of the 3D-printed corneas.