Here comes the most artificially created cornea of the eye in mankind’s history. By using human cells, scientists have 3D printed a thin protective film (cornea) that covers the eye. If the technology is improved, it will help thousands and millions of people with vision.
Damage to the cornea can result in distort vision and can also lead to blindness. Currently, doctors are replacing the cornea with healthy ones from deceased donors. According to the WHO, there are nearly 5 million people who are infected with scarred corneas and the number of donors isn’t catching up with this number.
This is where the 3D printed artificial cornea is going to change the course of healthcare. According to Che Connon, a tissue engineer at Newcastle University and one of the creators of the artificial cornea. “It was tricky to find the right recipe for an ink that’s thin enough to squirt through a 3D printer’s nozzle.” The process was a complicated one as the bio-ink had to be thing and stiff at the same time so that it could hold the right shape as a 3D structure.
Alginate, a jelly-like goo was the material used along with stem cells extracted from donor corneas and some ropy proteins called collagen. The new cornea will still depend on donated cornea, but with this technique, the researchers can grow enough cells from one donated cornea to print 50 artificial ones.