3D-printed corneas for the blind

Researchers create the first 3D-printed corneas to combat blindness

Researchers create the first 3D-printed corneas to combat blindness

Scientists from Britain printed on a 3D printer artificial analogue of the human cornea, which is based on donor keratocytes - cells, which comprise a large part of the cornea person.

This proof-of-concept ticked all the boxes: the scientists were able to print out a cornea, as a series of concentric circles, in less than 10 minutes.

It means the technique could be used in the future to ensure an unlimited supply of corneas.

The cornea is the eye's outermost lens, protecting it from harmful matter as well as providing a majority of the eye's focusing power.

It's another marvel of three-dimensional printing, using stem cells, collagen, and a type of polysaccharide called alginate to create a so-called "bio-ink" that can be used to print a cornea.

With the help of relatively low-priced 3D bio-printer, the bio-ink derived from collagen was expelled on the concentric circles in order to create the structure like human cornea, which needed no more than 10 minutes to print.


With a "significant shortage" of corneas available to transplant, 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". It also helps that the team had already figured out how to keep stem cells alive for a week 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.

Although these 3D-printed corneas won't be ready for use in transplants for another few years and need "to undergo further testing", Connon pointed out they are nevertheless an enormous breakthrough. It bends and focuses light into the eye.

Professor Che Connon and Dr. Steve Swioklo created the very first 3D human corneas for a study that was published in Experimental Eye Research. They're not ready for human eyes yet. In fact, over 10 million people worldwide are in need of eye surgery to prevent potential corneal blindness.

Scientists have produced the first human corneas to be 3D-printed in a lab, showing how we could potentially generate this vital bit of anatomy ourselves - and save millions of people from blindness related to corneal damage along the way.

Similarly, US researchers developed a prototype smartphone case that uses 3D-printing technology embedded with an optical sensor to monitor blood pressure.

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