New application of bioink GelMA—Corneal Stroma Regeneration


The cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eye, plays a pivotal role in vision. Any damage to its structure can severely impair eyesight. Traditional treatments for corneal defects, such as transplants, face challenges like donor shortages and tissue rejection. However, advancements in biotechnology offer promising alternatives. One such innovation involves the use of bioink GelMA for regenerating the corneal stroma, the supportive tissue of the cornea. This article explores the application of GelMA in corneal regeneration, its benefits, challenges, and the potential it holds for revolutionizing ophthalmic care.

The bioink formulation. (Maharjan S, et al.; 2022)Figure 1. The bioink formulation. (Maharjan S, et al.; 2022)

Understanding Corneal Stroma Regeneration

The corneal stroma comprises collagen fibers and keratocytes, crucial for maintaining corneal transparency and strength. Damage to the stroma can occur due to injuries, infections, or degenerative diseases, leading to vision impairment or blindness. Traditional treatments involve corneal transplants, which often face limitations like graft rejection and scarcity of donors. Thus, the quest for alternative regenerative therapies becomes imperative.

Enter Bioink GelMA

Bioinks, hydrogel-based materials containing living cells, are gaining attention in tissue engineering. Gelatin Methacryloyl (GelMA) is a biocompatible hydrogel derived from gelatin, a protein found in animal tissues. GelMA possesses tunable mechanical properties, allowing it to mimic the natural extracellular matrix (ECM) of various tissues. This characteristic makes GelMA an ideal candidate for corneal stroma regeneration.

Application of GelMA in Corneal Regeneration

Researchers have developed techniques to print GelMA-based bioinks into intricate corneal stroma structures using 3D bioprinting technology. By incorporating corneal cells (keratocytes) into the bioink, they create constructs that mimic the native corneal environment. These constructs can be customized according to patient-specific needs, offering personalized treatment options.

Benefits of GelMA Bioink in Corneal Regeneration

Biocompatibility: GelMA's composition closely resembles the ECM, reducing the risk of immune rejection and promoting cell adhesion and proliferation.

Tunable Properties: GelMA's mechanical properties can be adjusted to match those of the native corneal stroma, providing structural support while allowing nutrient diffusion.

Precision: 3D bioprinting enables precise placement of cells and materials, facilitating the creation of complex corneal tissue architectures.

Scalability: Bioink manufacturing processes can be scaled up to meet the growing demand for corneal regeneration therapies.

Reduced Dependency on Donor Tissues: Bioink-based approaches lessen reliance on donor tissues, addressing the shortage of corneal grafts and reducing the risk of rejection.

Application Prospects of GelMA in Corneal Stroma Regeneration

GelMA is a hydrophilic gelatin derivative produced by chemical modification of the natural biomaterial gelatin. GelMA hydrogel contains cell adhesion targeting peptide (arginine-glycine-aspartate, RGD), which maintains the excellent biocompatibility and bioactivity of gelatin. The mechanical properties of GelMA hydrogels can be easily modified by changing the GelMA concentration, methacrylamide grafting rate, initiator concentration, and UV irradiation time. GelMA material has good optical transmittance, excellent biological properties such as low antigenicity and high cell affinity, adjustable mechanical properties and biodegradability, and fully meets the requirements of corneal stroma for transparency, cell compatibility and specific mechanical properties


The application of bioink GelMA for corneal stroma regeneration represents a promising avenue in ophthalmic regenerative medicine. By harnessing the principles of tissue engineering and 3D bioprinting, researchers aim to overcome the limitations of traditional corneal transplantation and provide patients with personalized, efficient, and sustainable treatment options. While challenges remain, ongoing research efforts hold the potential to revolutionize vision care and improve the quality of life for individuals with corneal disorders.

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  1. Maharjan S, et al.; Microfluidic Coaxial Bioprinting of Hollow, Standalone, and Perfusable Vascular Conduits. Methods Mol Biol. 2022, 2375:61-75.
For research use only, not intended for any clinical use.