Dimensions of the cornea, in that case, were taken from an actual cornea by scanning the patient's eye.
The cornea is the eye's outermost lens, protecting it from harmful matter as well as providing a majority of the eye's focusing power.
Now around 10 million people worldwide each year require surgery to prevent corneal blindness, and another five million already suffer total blindness from corneal scarring caused by burns, lacerations, abrasion or disease. The solution, "bio-ink" was created by combining collagen with alginate (a tissue-generating type of sugar) and healthy corneal stem cells.
The unique qualities of the "bio-ink" allowed the 3D printer to create a scaffold shaped like a human cornea in under six minutes, on which the stem cells then grow to produce the tissue needed for transplant.
"Many teams across the world have been chasing the ideal bio-ink to make this process feasible", Professor Connon commented in a statement. The research built upon the team's previous work when they kept cells alive for weeks at room temperature within a similar type of gel.
Aside from 3D printing human corneas, the researchers also demonstrated that they could create a cornea that matches a patient's particular spectrum.
These 3-D corneas will undergo several tests and are expected to take a few years before being used in transplants. Their research was conducted at the University of Newcastle, USA.
Millions of patients around the world need surgery to prevent corneal blindness caused by eye disorders. "That's partly due to the increasing use of refractive [laser eye] surgery and eyes that have undergone refractive surgery now can not be used for transplantation".
British researchers claim that it is possible to print the cornea for each person with stromal cells. With over 10 million people requiring corneal transplants worldwide, scientists, including those from the Instituto de Investigación de Biomédica del Hospital La Paz (IdiPAZ) have been exploring methods to end the shortage of global cornea donations through 3D bioprinting.
The researchers examined the viability of cells printed them in artificial corneas. He also added that doctors could easily tailor the exact shape of the 3D-printed corneas through a 3D image or a set of coordinates.
What potential does the research have for medicine?