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 Researchers display a 3D-printed cornea. Source: Newcastle UniversityResearchers display a 3D-printed cornea. Source: Newcastle Universitycollagen 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.

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