The cornea is a clear front of the eye that coats the pupil, anterior and iris. Along with the lens, the cornea reflects the light. Through the pupil, it controls the quantity of light that goes into the eye.
If your cornea functions poorly or suffered damage, it will have an effect on your eyesight. When it comes to this, doctors perform corneal transplantation.
A corneal transplant is an operation that involves fractional or full replacement of an unhealthy cornea with a fit corneal transplant from a donor. Necessary, doctors perform this procedure when they can’t fix the vision with contact lenses or glasses, and if sore corneal swelling doesn’t go away with medication.
However, because this procedure requires a donor, it’s undersupplied. There are more than ten million people who are on waiting lists for this procedure in the world. Half of them can go completely blind because of serious corneal injures from burns, abrasions, blunt force trauma and numerous diseases.
The First Artificial Corneal Prostheses
A Newcastle University group of researchers under the leadership of professor Connon start using a 3D printer to create an artificial cornea. The composition is genuine corneal cells or keratocytes. Collagen and sodium alginate were mainly used as a printing bio-ink material. In addition, they added cells derived from human corneal tissue to it.
They created a high-precision model of the human cornea. They also made supporting forms on which they printed the cornea. Scientists tried out many different materials until they were able to choose the right one for 3D printing. They concluded that keratocytes are the best option for reconstruction of the cornea’s extracellular matrix.
Researchers have studied cell capability in their printed artificial corneas. After one day 92 % of the cells lived on the sample. Furthermore, 83 % of these cells remained alive, seven days after printing the sample.
However, this technology is not yet available in clinics. It needs more testing before it’s ready for use.
As professor Connon stated- “Our 3D-printed corneas will now have to undergo further testing and it will be several years before we could be in the position where we are using them for transplants. However, what we have shown is that it is feasible to print corneas using coordinates taken from a patient eye and that this approach has the potential to combat the worldwide shortage.”
But, this procedure gives some hope to those who need it. Maybe in the near future, blindness will become a condition from the past. As science moves forward, the possibilities are endless.