A New Frontier in Human Cornea Transplants

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Human cornea is one of the most limited organs available for transplants in the world, with over 10 million people worldwide requiring surgery to prevent corneal blindness as a result of diseases such as trachoma, an infectious eye disorder.

Now, thanks to a new discovery coming from Newcastle University, surgeons might be able to into an unlimited supply of corneas to fulfill these requests without having to wait for donors.

 

How is this possible? The solution, once again, comes from 3D printing technology.

The researchers were, in fact, capable of creating a 3D printable “bio-ink” by combining stem cells (human corneal stromal cells) from a healthy donor cornea with alginate and collagen.

Using a simple low-cost 3D bio-printer, the solution was successfully extruded in concentric circles to form the shape of a human cornea.

“Our unique gel 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.” Said Che Connon, the professor of Tissue Engineering who led the work at the Newcastle University. “Our 3D printed corneas will now have to undergo further testing and it will be several years before we could be in the position where we are using them for transplants. However, what we have shown is that it is feasible to print corneas using coordinates taken from a patient eye and that this approach has the potential to combat the worldwide shortage.”

Read more at ncl.ac.uk

Categories: Biomedical