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    Confessions of an innovator

    How ophthalmic breakthroughs evolved from the bizarre to medical, surgical realities


    Eye bank corneal storage

    This innovation was born out of need because of the dearth of usable tissue. The removed tissue at that time was inexpertly preserved and the enucleated eyes were stored intact. Because of the absence of glucose to nourish the corneas, the enucleated tissues died rapidly.

    Dr. Kaufman proposed removing the corneas from the enucleated eyes and immersing the corneas in a nourishing solution. “That was the breakthrough. The solution was easy,” he said.

    Dr. Kaufman immersed the corneal tissue in a tissue culture solution and later Dextran to dehydrate the tissue at the suggestion of colleague, Bernie McCarey, PhD, who validated the idea. But the eye banks refused to follow this protocol because of the extra costs of technicians who were trained in sterile technique and removing the corneal tissue and the charges necessary for tissue preparation.

    Finally, support from Ed Maumenee, MD, head of ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, was key to acceptance of the new protocol by Eye Banks International.

    But the story wasn’t over. The eye banks needed more time, and Dr. Kaufman and Richard Lindstrom, MD, improved the medium storage time for HIV and other tests. Optisol remains the most commonly used eye bank preserving medium, according to Dr. Kaufman.

    Lynda Charters
    Lynda Charters is a freelance medical writer.

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