For the first time, scientists 3D-print human corneas


Scientists involved in designing the cornea have used the data gained from scanning an eye of a patient, with the help of which they could print the cornea rapidly, matching the shape and size of the original one.

The corneas are possible using a special bio-ink, that the researchers create by mixing healthy donor cornea stem cells with a gel called alginate, which is taken from seaweed, and collagen.

Prof Connon said further testing needs to be done and could take "several years before we could be in the position where we are using them for transplants".

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Other researchers have managed to print cartilage in 3D, a very promising method because this tissue cannot regenerate. Engadget reports that the research team led by Che Connon, Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University, was able to reproduce the most advanced artificial cornea in just 10 minutes using "bio-ink" - a printable solution developed by the team. There aren't many of them, and this impacts the availability of corneas for transplantation. Using a low-priced bio-printer, the bio-ink was extruded in concentric circles to create a shape that mimics the human cornea, a process that took just 10 minutes. In fact, over 10 million people worldwide are in need of eye surgery to prevent potential corneal blindness. But this research is a validation that you can 3D print something that looks like a cornea and contains mostly the same ingredients.

Ebenezer also added, "However, it is important to note that this is still years away from potentially being available to patients and it is still vitally important that people continue to donate corneal tissue for transplant as there is a shortage within the UK".

A 2016 survey of corneal transplants globally found that only one cornea transplant was available for every 70 needed.

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This 3d printing technique does not absolutely eliminate the need for cornea donations because those are essential for making the stem cell part of the recipe. They mix this with human cornea stem cells.

3D printing methods are increasingly being used in the field of prosthetics and healthcare; earlier this year, U.S. researchers found a way to develop soft robots with embedded touch sensing, using a 3D printed conductive ink. Their work was published this month in the journal Experimental Eye Research.

It appears that this stem cell bioink was 3D printed on the Inkredible 3D printer by CELLINK, which is known as the first bioprinter with clean chamber technology.

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