Millions of people awaiting corneal transplants could be in luck after researchers at Newcastle University devised a method of creating corneas with a 3D bio-printer.
According to Engagdet, a team of scientists led by Professor of Tissue Engineering Che Connon combined healthy corneal stem cells with collagen and alginate – which Engagdet notes is “a type of sugar sometimes used in tissue regeneration” – to make bio-ink, which in turn was used to print the cornea-shaped result in as little as ten minutes.
The cornea has a significant role in helping us focus and barricading our eyes against dirt and bacteria. However, since it's located on the outermost layer of the eye, it's also pretty vulnerable to injury. Worldwide, approximately 10 million people risk corneal blindness due to infectious disorders like trachoma, but there's a dearth of readily available transplants. Because Connon's 3D-printed corneas utilize stem cells, corneal replicas could potentially provide a limitless supply of much-needed transplants.
Though the breakthrough represents hope for those desperately in need of a transplant, it will likely be years before the product and procedure become widely available.