Scientists at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom produced human corneas. However, they were created with the help of a 3D printer.
The 3D Cornea
Professor Che Connon and Dr. Steve Swioklo created the very first 3D human corneas for a study that was published in Experimental Eye Research. Professor Connon, who corresponded with Tech Times, stated the cornea is the eye's main reflective lens. The cornea also acts as a shield to the eye, as it protects it from incoming particles.
Connon and Swioklo created the 3D corneas by using stem cells from a human donor. They mixed the cornea stem cells with two different chemical components, alginate and collagen, to create "bio-ink." To create the 3D human corneas, they had to insert the bio-ink through a 3D printer's nozzle. Connon noted that the cornea's shape could influence cell behavior. He noted that cells would behave differently if they were inserted into a flat structure than a curvature-shaped model.
3D Printing Benefits
It took 10 minutes for the 3D printer to create the human corneas at Newcastle University's Institute of Genetic Medicine. Connon stated that there were benefits to having 3D corneas in the world. The professor claimed that he could see printers being put into medical hospitals for surgery purposes. He also added that doctors could easily tailor the exact shape of the 3D-printed corneas through a 3D image or a set of coordinates.
He hoped that 3D-printed cornea could help people who need cornea transplants worldwide. Currently, there are 10 million people that require cornea transplant surgery to prevent blindness. There are also 5 million people that endure total blindness due to cornea disfiguration.
"This will have an impact particularly in the developing world where cornea eye banks are less common. There aren't many of them, and this impacts the availability of corneas for transplantation. Artificially producing or by printing could be a new way to service these needs," said Connon.
Connon acknowledged that the 3D corneas would have to go through extensive testing before the corneas could be used for transplant surgeries. He added that it was possible for the 3D-printed corneas to potentially provide a solution to solve the worldwide cornea shortage.
3D Technology Innovations
The University of Toronto researchers created a new machine that could heal wounds at a faster rate. Scientific journal Lab on a Chip published a new study that showcased a small 3D printer the size of a white-tape dispenser that could tailor tissues to specific patients' needs. The bio-ink that it used in this experiment was a combination of collagen and fibrin.
Michigan State University graduate students created a 3D-printed case that could be attached to smartphones. This 3D-printed case would be able to help users measure their blood pressure by using an accompanying app. The app would provide users with visual feedback on their blood pressure.