Bioprint 3D is often presented as a solution to the problem of the shortage of organs able to transfer the recipient – the number of people waiting for a transplant is disproportionately greater than those who qualify as organ donors. This means that scientists in this field of science are still looking for ways to print 3D tissue that can be used as a fully functional biological material, suitable for implantation.
Researchers from the New Castle University, trying to broaden the boundaries of 3D printing, managed to print the 3D cornea of the human eye. The method developed by them allows the creation of functional tissues, which – as they admit themselves – in the near future can be used as tissue for transplants.
The prospect of creating organs and cellular structures “on demand” brings many potential benefits – now, for people with corneal defect, where the only right solution is a transplant (it is estimated that there are around 5 million in the world), an awfully troublesome problem is to wait . The cornea can be taken from a recently deceased person who has not suffered from any of the diseases that might imply shortening the viability of the tissue.
Recognizing these problems, a team of scientists took up the 3D bioprint of the eye part. The cornea was created from a specially developed biotouch, which consists of collagen, i.e. connective tissue protein and alginate – the substances provide the expected elasticity of the tissue. The mass was also enriched with the patient’s stem cells – early in vitro studies showed that human cells showed high survival.
As the head of the research team admits, they developed a biotube that provides cells with the right environment for growth – the material is stiff enough to maintain its shape, yet soft enough to be extruded and create the desired shape. He also adds that creating the optimal consistency of the gel is crucial – research teams from around the world are trying to achieve the perfect consistency of the biotouch, while maintaining the highest survival rate of the cells.
The 3D bioprint process was carried out using a bioplotter. The bioink was applied in the form of concentric vertebrae until a full-sized cornea of the human eye was obtained – all in less than 10 minutes! Due to the small thickness (0.5-0.6 mm on average) and the lack of vascularization, scientists did not have to struggle with the problem of building a complicated network of blood vessels.
Now a number of tests are waiting for the biodegradable 3D lenses, however, members of the research team believe that the possibility of additive production of these tissues, taking into account the anatomy of the eye of a particular patient, may turn out to be the technology of the future.
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