At Newcastle University in the UK researchers have managed to print replacement corneas, potentially alleviating the shortage of donor corneas that exists right now.
The artificial corneas are made from a combination of alginate, collagen, and a pinch of human stem cells that are made to differentiate into corneal stromal cells. The mix, which has the consistency of a gel and is referred to as “bio-ink,” can be extruded from an off-the-shelf 3D bio-printer into the shape of a cornea.
Once the device is finished, which only takes ten minutes to come out of the printer, the stem cells are allowed to grow within its structure. This alleviates having to grow the stem cells separately outside the new cornea and somehow introducing them into the implant.
One additional achievement of the scientists was that they were able to print corneas that closely matched the shape and size of a given patient’s eye
The scientists, including first author and PhD student Ms Abigail Isaacson from the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, also demonstrated that they could build a cornea 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, they could use the data to rapidly print a cornea which matched the size and shape.
Although the researchers believe they achieved considerable progress for the devices to work, clinical trials are still a ways away before any humans will get such implantations.
Here’s a video showing the printing of an artificial cornea:
Study in journal Experimental Eye Research: 3D bioprinting of a corneal stroma equivalent…
(hat tip: Engadget)