3D-Printed Corneas Could Soon Restore Vision for Millions

Scientists at Newcastle University have 3D printed the world's first human corneas.

Jun 5, 2018

It seems like every other day, scientists are discovering mindboggling ways to improve our lives in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. And this time is no different.

For the first time ever, scientists at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom succeeded in 3D-printing human corneas. Once the technology is perfected, these artificial corneas could actually restore eyesight to millions of blind or partially blind people.

The cornea is the outermost layer of the human eye and plays an important role in focusing vision – but unfortunately, with over 10 million people worldwide in need of surgery to prevent corneal blindness there just aren't enough corneas available.

In addition, almost 5 million people are completely blind because of corneal scarring caused by burns, lacerations, abrasion, or disease.

The study published in Experimental Eye Research shows how stem cells from a healthy donor cornea are mixed with alginate and collagen to create a bio-ink that could be printed in the shape of an actual working cornea.

Using a simple low-cost 3D bio-printer, the whole process takes less than 10 minutes.

“Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible,” Che Connon, the Newcastle University professor who led the project said. “Our unique gel – a combination of alginate and collagen – 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.

Connon added: “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 potential to combat the worldwide shortage.”

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DAVID RUHM, EDITOR & WRITER
David has a passion for languages and words, and loves to see people happy. He writes about inspiring ideas, amazing technologies and all the wonders of the world.

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