Corneal transplant are required for those who have damaged corneas but right now the waiting list is much too long. In order, to deal with this problem, many scientists have put their efforts into developing appropriate artificial corneas.
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Incorporating well with the eye
However, current artificial corneas use recombinant collagen or are made of chemical substances such as synthetic polymer that do not incorporate well with the eye. Now, researchers have developed novel 3D printed artificial corneas using a bioink which is made of decellularized corneal stroma and stem cells.
This new type of artificial cornea is biocompatible with the eye. Furthermore, the 3D cell printing technology allows for a transparency that is impressively similar to the human cornea.
A lattice pattern of collagen fibrils
The cornea is complicated to reproduce because of its unique properties. It is the thin outermost layer that covers the pupil.
Since it is the first layer that admits light, it needs to be transparent but it also needs to have the flexibility to move as the pupil moves. The human cornea achieves these impressive tasks by being organized in a lattice pattern of collagen fibrils.
To replicate this pattern, the research team used the shear stress generated in the 3D printing process. The innovation makes use of the frictional force generated by the 3D printing process.
When the ink in the printer comes out through the nozzle, shear stress occurs. By regulating this phenomenon, the research team successfully reproduced an efficient transparent artificial cornea that featured the lattice pattern of the human cornea.
"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," said one of the team members Professor Jinah Jang of Creative IT Convergence Engineering.
This research is published in the journal Biofabrication.