Newcastle University researchers have successfully produced artificial corneas using a low-cost 3D bio-printer and a unique gel containing human stem cells and a connective tissue material, called collagen. The project holds potential for addressing the international shortage in human donor corneas. The gel, or ‘bio-ink,’ took less than 10 minutes to print into the concentric circles of a human cornea.

Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University, Che Connon, said research teams around the world had been trying to produce a bio-ink that makes the process feasible.

“Our unique gel – a combination of alginate and collagen – keeps the stem cells alive whilst producing a material which is stiff enough to hold its shape but soft enough to be squeezed out the nozzle of a 3D printer,” he highlighted.

Professor Connon emphasised that further testing of the artificial corneas needs to be completed and it would be several years before they can be used for corneal transplants.