Scientist have managed to 3D print the cornea, which is the thin, protective film over the eye, using human cells and ink, and it is the most advanced artificial cornea printed yet!
The cornea is the first layer that light passes through before it hits the retina, where the image is formed so that you can see. Damage to the cornea can occur due to injury or infection-related scarring, leading to visual distortions or even blindness.
Photo: Newcastle University
Currently, damaged corneas are replaced based on donor corneas but there is a shortage. While the new technique still requires cells from the donors’ corneas, it takes this process forward. “Instead of replacing one damaged cornea with one healthy one, you could grow enough cells from one donated cornea to print 50 artificial ones,” says Che Connon, tissue engineer at Newcastle University, who was involved in this huge innovation.
The corneas are not yet ready for human use, but this is a huge milestone in the journey towards helping the blind. With fine tuning of the printing process and safety studies, this gives us hope, that corneas can in fact be manufactured for those in need of them.