Intra-Corneal Implantation of 3D Bioprinted Scaffolds Containing Mesenchymal Stromal Cells using Femtosecond-Laser-Assisted Intrastromal Keratoplasty

Macromol Biosci. 2023 Feb 2;e2200422. doi: 10.1002/mabi.202200422. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Injury of the cornea is a complex biological process. Regeneration of the corneal stroma can be facilitated by the presence of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and application of tissue equivalents. We present a new tissue-engineering strategy for corneal stroma regeneration using cellularized 3D bioprinted hydrogel constructs implanted into organ cultured porcine corneas using femtosecond laser-assisted intrastromal keratoplasty.

Results: The ex vivo cultured, MSC-loaded 3D bioprinted structures remained intact, supported cell survival and contained de novo synthesized extracellular matrix components and migrating cells throughout the observation period. At day 14 post-implantation, the cellularized tissue equivalents contained few or no cells, as demonstrated by optical coherence tomography imaging and immunofluorescent staining.

Conclusion: This study successfully combined a laboratory-based method with modern, patient-care practice to produce a cell-laden tissue equivalent for corneal implantation. Optimal bioink composition and cellularization of tissue equivalents are essential in fine-tuning a method to promote the current technique as a future treatment modality. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Keywords: 3D bioprinting; corneal tissue engineering; human collagen I; hydrogel; mesenchymal stromal cells.