Australia’s DHB Foundation will fund a four-year fellowship for Dr Karl Brown at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) to research the development of a tissue-engineered corneal endothelium for transplant.
Dr Brown is attempting to grow corneal endothelia in CERA’s corneal research unit lab, using patients’ own cells. If successful, it could eliminate the need for donated corneas in transplant surgery and overcome the problem of transplant rejection in some recipients.
Dr Brown and CERA’s Associate Professor Mark Daniell have collaborated with colleagues from the University of Melbourne to develop a hydrogel film, which helps prevent damage to fragile donor corneal endothelium during transplant surgery. The next phase of research builds on this technology by adding donor cells to the gel film to grow new corneal tissue.
The technology could also enable cells from one donor to be grown into many transplants, helping people in countries where there are major shortages of donor tissue.
“Eventually, the use of stem cell technology and tissue engineering could eliminate the need for donors to treat corneal endothelial disease, allowing the treatment of millions of people worldwide currently blind because of a global shortage of donor corneas,” said Dr Brown.