In the US, patients must wait ≥6 years (on average as of 2018) for a cornea donation. With wait times increasing, scientists and researchers are looking to develop an artificial alternative.
Current artificial corneas in production use recombinant collagen or synthetic polymers. These substances do not work well in the eye and are not transparent after implantation. In search of a better prototype, Professor Dong-Woo Cho of Mechanical Engineering, Professor Jinah Jang of Creative IT Convergence Engineering, and Ms. Hyeonji Kim at POSTECH collaborated with Professor Hong Kyun Kim of Ophthalmology at Kyungpook National University School of Medicine to 3D print a new artificial cornea using bioink.
The bioink comprises decellularized corneal stroma and stem cells, and is biocompatible, making it similar to a human cornea. The similarity is achieved in the spray of the ink, which replicates the latticework of the cornea. After 4 weeks in vivo, the collagen fibrils continue to create a lattice pattern.
Professor Jinah Jang believes this corneal recreation “can achieve the criteria for both transparency and safety of engineered cornea stroma.”
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