3D bioprinting as a prospective therapeutic strategy for corneal limbal epithelial stem cell deficiency

Qian Xue, Liang Ma, Hanyi Hu, Qi Li, Weiwei Wang, Huayong Yang, Bin Zhang

Article ID: 710
Vol 9, Issue 3, 2023, Article identifier:

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Limbal epithelial stem cells (LESCs) are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the corneal surface. Injuries and diseases of the eye may result in a vision condition called limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD). Without limbal stem cells, the cornea becomes opaque, vascularized, and inflamed. Cultured LESC therapy as a treatment method was first described in 1997, and LESCs cultured from either patients or donors have been used to treat LSCD successfully. However, the main source of cornea for LSCD treatment is from donors, which are too few to meet the demand (less than 1:70 of cases). The global shortage of donor cornea promotes the need for studies exploring corneal limbus alternatives. Many problems still remain unresolved, such as original geometry reconstruction, corneal epithelial regeneration, and ocular optical function restoration. 3D bioprinting has garnered tremendous attention in recent years, and significant advances have been made in fabricating cell–laden scaffolds. These advancements could lead to a promising treatment for LSCD. It is possible that alternative limbus stem cells can be constructed using 3D printing, which, in corneal limbus regeneration, enables personalized corneal implants and fabrication of single- or multilayer corneal limbus equivalents with corneal limbal stem cells. In this review, the progress, applications, and limitations of the most influential works regarding current treatments of LESC deficiency are discussed. The advantages of 3D bioprinting are illustrated, and some first promising steps toward the creation of a functional cornea limbus with 3D bioprinting are discussed. Finally, insights into the prospects and technical challenges facing the future research of 3D bioprinting of corneal limbus alternatives in vivo and in vitro are provided.



3D bioprinting; Corneal limbus; Regenerative medicine; Limbal stem cell deficiency

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18063/ijb.710


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