Saturday, 23 June, 2018

First 3D-printed human corneas could treat blindness: Research

Science news 3D printed organs cornea NCJ MEDIA JOHN MILLARD GETTY3D printed eyes Scientists have developed artificial corneas in a lab
Anna Jefferson | 01 June, 2018, 08:19

Scientists from Newcastle University say they've created the world's first 3D-printed human cornea. According to their scientific paper, it took under 10 minutes to print their proof-of-concept cornea. The technique could be used in the future to ensure an unlimited supply of corneas.

The cornea has a significant role in helping us focus and barricading our eyes against dirt and bacteria.

Now around 10 million people worldwide each year require surgery to prevent corneal blindness, and another five million already suffer total blindness from corneal scarring caused by burns, lacerations, abrasion or disease.

Scientists created a "bio-ink" to 3-D print human corneas.

The team then printed the shape of a human cornea using a low-priced bio printer - a process that took less than 10 minutes - and allowed the stem cells to grow.

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"Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible", Connon said, referring to the growth of stem cells achieved by the researchers.

"This builds upon our previous work in which we kept cells alive for weeks at room temperature within a similar hydrogel". The final step is allowing this structure to grow into a cornea on a culture dish. "That's partly due to the increasing use of refractive [laser eye] surgery and eyes that have undergone refractive surgery now can not be used for transplantation". For people with cornea problems, the only hope of clear vision is a cornea transplant from a donor, which are hard to come by. That could take several years at least before the first attempt at a surgery, Connon said. (With corneal transplants, there's no need to find a "match" between the donor and the recipient.) But because organ donors with healthy corneas aren't very common, and because of high demand, there's a donor corneal shortage.

Despite the progress that has been made, both the team and other experts are still keen to highlight that for the time being, cornea transplants are desperately needed.

Newcastle University's Professor Che Connon and colleagues examined the feasibility of generating artificial, biological corneas using pneumatic 3D extrusion bioprinting. Few years the method could be ready for actual use by patients needing a corneal transplant. They mix this with human cornea stem cells.

What's even more impressive is that the cornea can be tailored to each patient.

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