Whenever people hear of 3D printing, they automatically think of tools or robots that have to do with science. However, the technology is incredibly useful in the field of medicine as well. A team of researchers from Newcastle University, UK, have just produced the first 3D printed cornea. By using it, we might soon be able to prevent people from going blind or treat eye conditions through easier procedures.
What happens if you damage your cornea?
The cornea is that outer lens of the eye that regulates the amount of light the organ gets. Therefore, damaging it through burns, accidents, or even through diseases can really impair our visual capacities. In some cases, an ill cornea can lead to complete blindness.
Unfortunately, the procedure to treat such illnesses is quite complicated. People who suffer from it need a corneal transplant, and there aren’t too many donors around. Some of the transplants might come from dead people, but this still doesn’t fulfill the need for organ donations.
The 3D printed cornea is both soft and sturdy to stay in place
Therefore, the achievement of the English researchers is truly amazing. To produce the 3D printed cornea, they used a special material called bio-ink. By laying the material in circular shapes, they obtained a corneal matrix. To make the 3D printed cornea functional, they applied stem cells on this matrix. Once they are done growing, the cornea is ready for a transplant.
This isn’t the first attempt to produce a 3D printed cornea. So far, researchers have been looking for the ideal materials to produce this bio-ink, as none of those they used could sustain the stem cells. Another challenge was to get a final product that was both soft and sturdy. However, using collagen and alginate proved to be the best combination.
Cornea transplants aren’t too complicated, since the organ has no blood vessels. Therefore, a new outer lens on the ocular globe has fewer chances to be rejected than other organs. The study on this remarkable 3D printed cornea was published in the journal Experimental Eye Research.
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