More often than not, the news on television or on the Internet isn’t good. There are political feuds, crime, and natural disasters–just to name a few. The exception is medical research. Most of the news from the medical field is good. It deals with new treatments or new insights about the workings of the human body. One particular body part that has some good news attached to it is the cornea. Studies done by the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the Flaum Eye Institute at the University of Rochester School of Medicine deal with ways to improve outcomes in both transplants and injury treatment.
Starting with research funded by NEI, investigators have found that corneal tissue can be stored for up to 11 days without negatively impacting the success of the transplant. This allows greater access to this vision saving procedure.
Over a thousand patients took part in this study. Researchers looked at the three-year graft success rates for patients who had a transplant via Descemet’s stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty.They couldn’t find much difference in success rates for corneas preserved 8 to 14 days versus corneas preserved for seven days (92.1 percent versus 95.3 percent). However, upon further investigation the researchers found that a difference was related to those that received corneas that were preserved 12 to 14 days. Still the success rate with those corneas was 89.3 percent.
Researchers also looked at corneal endothelial cell loss over time to see if that was affected by the differences in preservation time. Over 900 eyes were noninvasively measured and it was found that corneas preserved up to seven days experienced a 37 percent cell loss. Corneas preserved 8 to 14 days had a 40 percent cell loss.
Both the success rate in the graft and the cell loss data support the use of corneas that have been stored up to 11 days. This has ramifications for the aging population. As more people get age-related diseases of the cornea, having more time to screen for infectious and communicable
disease and match donors to corneas means that more people will be able to receive corneal transplants.
Moving on to the Flaum Eye Institute at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, where researchers are working on ways to improve corneal wound healing without compromising visual quality. Corneal scarring is a major cause of diminished vision and vision loss. Currently there aren’t suitable ways of controlling scarring, still there might be a way to manipulate wound healing.
Investigators are looking into PPARγ ligands (molecules). PPARγ is a nuclear receptor/transcription factor and it is currently used as insulin sensitizers, medications that increase the muscle, fat and liver’s sensitivity to insulin. Studies of PPARγ in both cell culture and in animal models show that it is possible to control certain aspects of wound healing in the cornea by acting on the different cellular pathways. What makes this research different is that the researchers can do more than just manipulate the cells in the cornea, they can measure the optical consequences in the animal models. The hope is to develop a treatment for cornea wound healing that preserves the cornea’s structure and optical function.
Now, don’t you feel better having read about these two research developments?