British scientists at Newcastle University have succeeded in “printing” human corneas from stem cells.
The cornea is the transparent outer layer of the eyeball. It can be damaged following an infection, injury or inflammation, and can result in partial or total blindness. Corneal transplants correct and restore patients’ vision.
Scientists have harvested cornea stem cells from a healthy donor and mixed them with alginate and collagen. The gel obtained was used in a 3D printer and has produced the first 3D printed human corneas.
Professor Che Connon, who is supervising the research, explains: “Our gel keeps the stem cells alive whilst producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out of the nozzle of a 3D printer.” This technique is rapid: printing takes 10 minutes and the size and shape of the cornea can be adapted to suit the patient’s eye. It could lead to a “virtually unlimited” supply of corneas in the future.
Based on current estimates, 10 million people are in need of surgery to prevent corneal blindness secondary to disorders such as trachoma or infectious eye diseases. Five million people are totally blind due to corneal lesions caused by burns, lacerations, abrasion or disease.
Pourquoi Docteur, Megane Fleury (30/05/2018), Santé log (31/05/2018)