Scientists have developed a way to 3D-print corneas for human eyes

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Scientists have developed a way to 3D-print corneas for human eyes
  • Researchers have made a unique gel that can be used as ink for the 3D printer.
  • This ink was then used to print 3D human cornea.
  • It takes about 10 minutes to print the whole eye using the new bio-ink.
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Scientists have developed a technology to 3D print human corneas, which could be a solution to treating different forms of blindness. Currently, doctors often face a shortage of donors for transplants, with yearly requirements crossing 10 million.

Almost 180 million people around the world suffer from visual disabilities, according to WHO. And, almost 5 million people suffer from total blindness due to burns lacerations, abrasions and diseases of the cornea.

A study published in the journal Experimental Eye Research, details how stem cells from a healthy donor were used to make material used for printing, called a “bio-ink”. The bio-ink is used to print out the corneas, and the whole process takes just ten minutes.

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The researchers have made a gel, which can hold the stem cells while producing a cast that is stiff enough to hold the cells in place, but is also soft enough to be used as printer ink.

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Further, the researchers say they can make corneas pertaining to a user’s unique specifications. The dimensions of the cornea can be scanned from the patient's eye and then be used to rapidly print a replacement that matches the shape and size of the patient.

Researchers said that the solution cannot be directly implemented in medical sciences as of now, but have a lot of future potential. Further testing is going on right now and it may take several years before this technology actually comes to market though. “What we have shown is that it is feasible to print corneas using coordinates taken from a patient’s eye and that this approach has potential to combat the worldwide shortage”, said Che Connon a professor at Newcastle University in the UK, who led the research.
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