Researchers at the Pohang University of Science and Technology and Kyungpook National University in South Korea have managed to create an artificial cornea using a 3D printer and bioink made up of decellularised corneal stroma and stem cells.
Scientists have previously struggled to recreate the transparency of the cornea when creating artificial structures due to the complex lattice pattern of collagen fibrils found in the cornea. To combat this, the team regulated the shear stress force to control the pattern of the fibrils as the bioink passed through the printer's nozzle. By doing so, they successfully managed to reproduce a transparent artificial cornea featuring the same lattice pattern of the human cornea that is also biocompatible.
They also observed that the collagen fibrils remodelled along with the printing path create a lattice pattern similar to the structure of native human cornea after 4 weeks in vivo.
Currently, patients requiring cornea transplants must rely on donors, sometimes waiting years to receive a suitable replacement, or undergo a transplant using synthetic replacements with clear vision not always guaranteed after the procedure. The new advancement could help to remove the difficulties in finding a suitable donor as well as the complication involved with artificial corneas.
Pohang University of Science & Technology professor Jinah Jang said: “The suggested strategy can achieve the criteria for both transparency and safety of engineered cornea stroma. We believe it will give hope to many patients suffering from cornea-related diseases.”