Scientists Developed Novel 3D Printed Artificial Cornea Using Stem Cells

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Scientists from Newcastle University developed a bio-ink to 3D print human corneas, which can aid in resorting eyesight of visually impaired patients

Cornea is the outermost protective layer of eyes, which if damaged can result into vision loss and various ocular problems. Conventional treatment option avaible for treating damaged cornea is cornea transplant, which requires cornea donors. Demand for donors is high out of which around 44,000 transplants are conducted annually. This is propelling demand for development of cost-effective alternative options for treatment of danged cornea.

Researchers from Newcastle used combination of two chemicals, alginate and collagen for 3D printing. An inexpensive 3D printer was used to construct their cornea in less than 10 minutes. They used a scan of a person’s eye to determine the cornea’s dimensions, ensuring it would be a perfect match for a recipient’s eye size and shape. “The material has to be stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D printer,” said lead researcher Che Connon. “Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible.”

Furthermore, after cornea was printed, stem cells were allowed to grow around the scaffolding provided by the alginate and collagen gel. It was found that 83% of the keratocytes (a specific type of cornea cell) were alive after week of printing indicating that they could be efficient replacement for human corneas. Furthermore, team is working on examining all types of cells in the corneas before testing them in living organisms. The study reported that 3D-printed corneas have the potential to change millions of lives suffering from vision impairment. The study was published in the journal Experimental Eye Research on May 29, 2018.

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