A team of clinicians and scientists from the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Hyderabad, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad, and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) worked together to develop the 3D-printed cornea from a human donor corneal tissue.
Before being used on patients, the printed corneas must undergo additional clinical testing and development, which could take several years. However, the group is optimistic about the result.
They implanted an artificial cornea that was 3D printed by researchers in Hyderabad into a rabbit’s eye, acting as a prerequisite for the human trials, inching the technology closer to success.
It is the first 3-D printed human cornea that is optically and physically suitable for transplantation. It is an Indian clinician-scientist product. The bio-ink used to create this 3D-printed cornea can help army personnel save their sight by sealing corneal perforations and preventing infections in war-related injuries or remote locations lacking tertiary eye care facilities, according to the researchers.
To create a unique biomimetic hydrogel whose patent is still pending, researchers from LVPEI, IIT-H, and CCMB used decellularized corneal tissue matrix and stem cells derived from the human eye.
This hydrogel served as the foundation material for the 3D-printed cornea. The 3D-printed cornea is biocompatible, all-natural, and free of animal byproducts because it is made of materials derived from human corneal tissue.
According to the press release, this method also finds a novel use for donated corneas that would otherwise get discarded because the tissue used for this technology is derived from donor corneas that do not meet the optical standards for clinical transplantation.
Corneal transplantation is the current gold standard of care for patients with severe disease and vision loss. Three 3D-printed corneas can be prepared with the help of each donor cornea. The cornea can be customized to the patient’s requirements and printed in diameters ranging from 3 mm to 13 mm.
Although corneal substitutes are actively being researched worldwide, they are either synthetic or based on animals. The India-based team said their product is synthetic-free, all-natural, residue-free from animals, and above all, is created domestically with the help of philanthropic and governmental funding.
Less than 5% of new cases each year are treated with corneal transplants due to a lack of donor corneal tissue, according to experts who cited the significant disparity between the demand and supply of donor corneal tissue globally inadequate eye banking networks. With more than 1.5 million new cases of corneal blindness reported each year, corneal damage is the primary cause of blindness worldwide.
Lead researchers from L V Prasad Eye Institute, Dr. Sayan Basu and Dr. Vivek Singh, believe their research could be a revolutionary and disruptive innovation in treating conditions like Keratoconus and corneal scarring when the cornea becomes thin with time.