Scientists at Newcastle University have created the new 3D printed human cornea.
Che Connon, Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University said, ‘Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible. Our unique gel — a combination of alginate and collagen — 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. This builds upon our previous work in which we kept cells alive for weeks at room temperature within a similar hydrogel. Now we have a ready to use bio-ink containing stem cells allowing users to start printing tissues without having to worry about growing the cells separately.”
Using a simple low-cost 3D bio-printer, the bio-ink was successfully extruded in concentric circles to form the shape of a human cornea. It took less than 10 minutes to print. It means the technique could be used in the future to ensure an unlimited supply of corneas. As the outermost layer of the human eye, the cornea has an important role in focusing vision.
With the development, corneas will be available to transplant, with 10 million people worldwide requiring surgery to prevent corneal blindness as a result of diseases such as trachoma, an infectious eye disorder. In addition, almost 5 million people suffer total blindness due to corneal scarring caused by burns, lacerations, abrasion or disease.
These results were published in Experimental Eye Research.