Monday, 17 December, 2018

British scientists create human corneas using 3D printer

Researchers create the first 3D-printed corneas to combat blindness British scientists create human corneas using 3D printer
Melissa Porter | 01 June, 2018, 08:19

Newcastle University in the United Kingdom has claimed the first ever 3D-printed human corneas, which could potentially be used in the future for corneal transplants. One donated cornea could be used to print as many as 50 artificial corneas.

Scientists have 3D printed the thin protective film over the eye, which is called cornea.

On top of that figure, around five million people are suffering from complete blindness due to corneal scarring commonly caused by lacerations, burns, diseases, and abrasions. To get the right consistency, the researchers added a jelly like goo called alginate and stem cells extracted from donor corneas, along with some ropy proteins called collagen.

The first human corneas to come out of a low-priced 3D printer were created by a team of researchers at Newcastle University in the UK.

"Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible", said Che Connon, a professor at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, who led the research.

Previously, the same team had used a similar hydrogel to keep stem cells alive for weeks at room temperature. A generated template was fed to a 3D printer, which bio-inked the solution into a supportive Jello bed to create a cornea replica. In the future, a simple scan of a patient's eye will enable doctors to print a cornea that perfectly matches the size and shape of their eyeballs. 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.

The worldwide shortage in corneas has been a result of the popular uptake of laser eye surgery. It's an expensive but important procedure for the part of the eye most susceptible to damage. If this technology progresses, it could rescue millions of people in need.

We won't be seeing the bio-ink used anytime soon, though. But this research is a validation that you can 3D print something that looks like a cornea and contains mostly the same ingredients.

The report was published May 29 in the journal Experimental Eye Research.

As the researchers note, the day cells spread through the printed corneas and 92% of them survived.

Finding the precise recipe for an ink that's stiff enough to maintain its shape and flexible to be squeezed through nozzle was tricky, Connon said. Currently, patients with damaged corneas can undergo transplants in serious cases, but this necessitates a donor-of which there is a significant shortage.