3D Printed Human Cornea
Researchers have created the most advanced artificial cornea ever using 3D printing and human stem cells. The technology, if successfully developed, could help millions of people around the world to see a clearer future.
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. This is where light passes through before eventually hitting the retina at the back of the eye. Damage to the cornea from injury or infection can affect the vision; might even lead to blindness. As of now, healthy cornea donations are coming from deceased donors, but there aren’t enough donated corneas to go around. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 5 million people around the world are blind because infection scarred their corneas.
The team of researchers from Newcastle University had to figure out the shape of a human cornea to figure out what exactly to print. To do this, the researchers used a special camera to picture a volunteer’s eyeball and create a 3D model of their cornea. Then, the team fed that template to a 3D printer, which squirted the bio-ink into a supportive bed of Jello to create the cornea.
The result looks like a soft contact lens in a bath of goo. The new technique used as described in the journal Experimental Eye Research doesn’t completely eliminate a need for cornea donations. But, using this technique, the donation goes a lot farther. Instead of replacing one damaged cornea with one healthy one, you could grow enough cells from one donated cornea to print 50 artificial ones.
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