CLEVELAND, Jan. 17, 2022 — Eversight was awarded the 2021 Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) High Impact Research Grant to investigate the development of eye-bank prepared and enriched corneal grafts. This research is being conducted in partnership with Nambi Nallasamy, MD, and Shahzad I. Mian, MD, at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.
The project has been granted $50,000 and aims to determine optimal tissue dissection to maximize the amount of viable limbal cells (LSCs) during procurement. The ultimate goal is to make possible the eye bank preparation and storage of tissue for use in simple limbal epithelial transplantation (SLET) to treat LSCD, a blinding eye condition that is particularly prevalent outside the United States.
LSCs are responsible for the repair and renewal of the corneal epithelium—the front layer of the cornea—so surgical techniques for treatment of LSCD focus on transplantation and replenishment of LSCs. If one of the patient’s eyes is healthy, it can be used for enriched graft generation for transplantation into their diseased eye. However, this requires a special facility to cultivate cells and the expertise to do so.
Additionally, approximately forty percent of LSCD patients present with the disease in both eyes. SLET for these patients requires tissue from a healthy, willing living donor or a deceased donor, further complicating treatment options especially internationally where the need is greatest.
“The small amount of tissue required for transplant and the availability of U.S. donor tissue that avoids putting healthy eyes at risk make allogeneic SLET a practical option for LSCD treatment,” said Onkar B. Sawant, PhD, Director of Research & Innovation, Eversight. “We look forward to learning more about how eye banks could prepare and distribute this tissue for transplantation, decreasing the burden on surgeons who currently perform this unique graft preparation in the operating room, and improving treatment availability worldwide.”
This is the third consecutive year the Eversight Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research in Cleveland has been awarded the EBAA High Impact Research Grant.
Eversight is a nonprofit organization with a mission to restore sight and prevent blindness through the healing power of donation, transplantation and research. The Eversight network is responsible for recovering, evaluating and providing human eye tissue for transplantation; supporting research into the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions; promoting donation awareness through public and professional education; and providing humanitarian aid to people around the world in need of corneal transplantation. Operating in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and South Korea, Eversight works in collaboration with surgeons, researchers, academic medical centers and eye banks across the United States and abroad. For more information, visit eversightvision.org.