International partnership investigates innovative solution

Eversight Awarded $50,000 to Investigate Cell Expansion to Address Global Cornea Shortage

CLEVELAND, Nov. 12, 2019 — Eversight today announced the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) awarded a $50,000 High Impact Research Grant to the organization and its research partners to investigate cell expansion aiming to mitigate the global shortage of surgical-quality donor corneas available for transplantation.

More than 50 percent of the world’s population has no access to donor corneal tissue, leaving 10 million people unable to receive a sight-restoring cornea transplant.1 The Eversight Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research in Cleveland has partnered with the University of Melbourne and the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) to investigate ex vivo corneal endothelial cell expansion with the ultimate goal of engineering corneal grafts for use as an alternative to human donor corneal tissue.

“Unfortunately, people wait many years for cornea transplants outside the United States, and some regions of the world simply do not have access to donor corneal tissue at all,” said Onkar B. Sawant, Ph.D., Eversight Director of Research. “With this generous grant from the EBAA, we hope to continue critical research to build a foundation for tissue-engineered corneal grafts for further investigation in future clinical trials.”

The EBAA grant will fund the research collaboration conducted by Dr. Sawant; Associate Professor Mark Daniell, M.B.B.S., Corneal Research Head, CERA; Karl David Brown, Ph.D., Corneal Research Chief Laboratory Scientist, CERA; Greg Qiao, Ph.D., Biomolecular Engineering Deputy Department Head, University of Melbourne; and Jean-Pierre Scheerlinck, Ph.D., Director, Centre for Animal Biotechnology.

“The potential impact of this project is incalculable for communities in need of donor cornea substitutes,” said Dr. Daniell, principal investigator. “Support from the EBAA enables us to take the next step toward identifying a reliable and scalable supply of corneal endothelial cells that may one day make it possible to restore sight and autonomy to millions of people worldwide.”

Preclinical in vivo research has demonstrated proof of concept of bioengineered tissue in Descemet’s stripping endothelial keratoplasty (DSEK) procedures. The current stage of research supported by the EBAA grant is specifically investigating the potential use for human donor cornea endothelial cells compared with similar cells generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) to engineer surgical-quality corneal endothelial grafts.

About Eversight
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.

References
1 Gain P, Jullienne R, He Z, et al. Global Survey of Corneal Transplantation and Eye Banking. JAMA ophthalmology 2016;134:167-173. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.4776

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