What’s the best way to prepare donor tissue for corneal transplant?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Vito Romano
  • Institute: The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Region: North West
  • Start date: December 2016
  • End Date: June 2018
  • Priority: Treatment
  • Eye Category: Corneal & external


The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye. It needs to be clear and have an even curve for good vision.

Conditions such as keratoconus affect the outer part of the cornea, changing its shape. Conditions that affect the inner layers of the cornea, such as Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, can turn the cornea cloudy. In both cases visual impairment or blindness can result.

Corneal transplants are often the only treatment that can save sight, but there is a shortage of donors and people are having to wait longer for an operation. A possible solution would be to use each donor cornea twice, by separating the front from the back and using the tissue to treat different types of condition.

Preparing the inner layers of the cornea for surgery is difficult. It takes a lot of surgical time, expensive equipment and much of the tissue is wasted. So it would be useful if surgeons could be provided with healthy, pre-cut tissue, that meets precise quality standards.

In this project the researchers are investigating the effect of the chemical mix that donor corneas are stored in before transplant. Their preliminary data show that changing the mix may make it easier to extract the inner layers from a whole cornea. It may also be able to improve the strength and flexibility of the tissue.

Results from the study could mean reduced waiting times for patients, and saved time and money for the NHS. It might also make it possible to ship pre-prepared corneal tissue around the world to places where access to donor corneas is limited.