Newcastle University researchers have successfully produced artificial corneas using a low-cost 3D bio-printer and a gel formed from human corneal stromal cells, alginate and collagen.
The project, which was described in Experimental Eye Research, holds potential for addressing the international shortage in human donor corneas.
The gel, or ‘bio-ink,’ took less than 10 minutes to print into the concentric circles of a human cornea.
Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University, Che Connon, said research teams around the world had been trying to produce a bio-ink that makes the process feasible.
“Our unique gel – a combination of alginate and collagen – keeps the stem cells alive whilst producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D printer,” he highlighted.
Professor Connon emphasised that further testing of the artificial corneas needs to be completed and it would be several years before they can be used for corneal transplants.
The development follows previous Newcastle University research that found placing corneal cells on a curved substrate caused the cells to spontaneously align.