Expanding the Timeframe for Cornea Transplants

Researchers at the School of Medicine are leading efforts to expand the supply of donor corneas with the help of a $12.3-million grant from the National Eye Institute.¹

The award will fund a five-year study to determine if corneas transplanted up to two weeks after donor death work as well as those transplanted within one week.

With an aging population and concerns about the future donor pool, researchers want to ensure supply can meet growing demand for donor corneas.

Doubling the window for transplants will increase the pool of donors and improve public health, says the study’s lead investigator, Jonathan Lass, MD, the Charles I. Thomas Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Case Western Reserve and director of the University Hospitals Eye Institute.

The U.S. FDA permits corneas to be stored for up to two weeks. Transplant specialists in the United States have grown comfortable with a one-week window; however, excess supply is shipped overseas where the tissue is successfully transplanted more than a week after donation. But there has been limited follow-up to demonstrate that corneas transplanted later work just as well.

Researchers will compare the outcomes of 1,330 transplants—half performed within one week and half within eight to 14 days after donation. Researchers hope to gather sufficient data to convince U.S. corneal surgeons to adopt a two-week standard.

1 Research funded by NIH grant No. 1U10-EY020798-01A1.