Profiles Eye Banking
Precision Lasers for a Better Look at the Future
The expertise required to prepare donor corneal tissue for transplant is tremendous. Procedures typically involve layers of the cornea that are sometimes only tens of microns thick – and cutting tissue at that level of delicacy is extremely difficult without the use of laser technology. That’s why Abbott Medical Optics partners with the National Eye Bank Center in Memphis, Tennessee, to help prepare tissues for transplant efficiently and rapidly, while serving as a research hub.
One of the largest eye banks in the country, the National Eye Bank Center relies on Abbott Medical Optics’ IntraLase femtosecond laser to prepare donor cornea tissue for surgery.
“Everything AMO does to help the National Eye Bank Center is rooted in the knowledge that surgeons will do better work because of the high-quality tissue we provide to them,” said Kathleen Terlizzese, President of the nonprofit Tissue Banks International.
AMO’s IntraLase femtosecond laser gives surgeons the ability to create customized, ultra-precise corneal incisions. Corneal transplants performed with tissue prepared using IntraLase technology tend to heal more quickly.
Corneal transplants represent some of the most commonly performed transplant procedures in the United States. More than 700,000 corneal transplants have been performed during the past 50 years – and, as a result, “eye banks” housing tissues available for transplant have existed in many communities for decades.
As corneal transplant procedures have grown more advanced, however, the technology and expertise required to prepare donor tissue for transplant also have increased. Contemporary procedures typically involve different layers of the cornea that are sometimes only tens of microns thick – and cutting tissue at that level of delicacy is extremely difficult to achieve without the use of specific laser technology. That’s why Abbott Medical Optics (AMO) is partnering with the National Eye Bank Center in Memphis, Tennessee, to help prepare tissues for transplant efficiently and rapidly, while serving as a hub for research and development on new ways of preparing corneal tissue.
AMO’s IntraLase femtosecond laser gives surgeons the ability to create uniquely shaped corneal incisions with great precision. With these customized, ultra-precise incisions, transplanted corneas can exert less pressure on sutures, which may result in less astigmatism. Research shows that corneal transplants performed with tissue that has been prepared using IntraLase technology tend to heal more strongly and more quickly, which allows for earlier suture removal and faster visual rehabilitation.
Abbott Medical Optics and its predecessor organizations have been leading supporters of NEBC since the early 2000s. Because the National Eye Bank Center relies so heavily on the IntraLase femtosecond laser to prepare donor cornea tissue for surgery, AMO in 2010 gave the organization the single largest in-kind gift in its history: a pledge to cover $500,000 worth of laser-related upkeep and fees.
But Abbott’s support for the National Eye Bank Center goes beyond dollars and cents.
“AMO provides more than just monetary support,” says Kathleen Terlizzese, President of Tissue Banks International, the nonprofit foundation supporting the National Eye Bank Center’s parent organization. “The relationship is much more than just benefactor and recipient. Both Tissue Banks International and Abbott Medical Optics are leaders in innovation, and we both want to do what is best for the surgeon in order to help patients see better and live better in the end. Everything AMO does to help the National Eye Bank Center is rooted in the knowledge that surgeons will do better work because of the high-quality tissue we provide to them.”
The NEBC Advantage
Although eye banks have been around for decades, the National Eye Bank Center offers certain unique efficiencies and economies of scale that set it apart from other tissue processing centers. Its location in Memphis, near the main transport hub for shipping giant FedEx, gives the center the ability to receive donor tissue, prepare it for surgery and ship it out nationwide on an overnight basis, with assurance that the necessary materials will arrive in time for early morning surgeries. Time is of the essence in transplant operations – because most donor tissue is highly perishable, and because many corneal transplant recipients need to undergo surgery immediately in order to prevent loss of eyesight.
Beyond the quick turnaround time, the National Eye Bank Center offers additional advantages due to its sheer size and the volume of corneas that it processes. Corneal tissue preparation is a skill, and perfecting any skill takes practice. Most large eye banks process hundreds of corneas in a year, but the National Eye Bank Center processes approximately 8,000 corneas annually.
About 75 percent of these corneas meet screening criteria and are deemed suitable for surgery, while the rest are reserved for research and training purposes. The tissue is made available to Tissue Banks International’s own research scientists, as well as to researchers from academic centers and ophthalmic companies such as Abbott Medical Optics.
The National Eye Bank Center also uses IntraLase to prepare more than 75 percent of its VisionGraft Sterile Corneas. These special corneas are sterilized using gamma radiation to extend their shelf life from 14 days when frozen all the way to 18 months – even when stored at room temperature.
“We have had a successful relationship with Tissue Banks International and the National Eye Bank Center for several years, including participation on the TBI board,” reports Leonard Borrmann, Divisional Vice President, Research and Development at Abbott Medical Optics. “This partnership has resulted in our ability to refine the tissue-cutting process, helping to treat eye disease in thousands of patients around the world.”
Note: All data in the Global Citizenship section reflects activities prior to the separation of Abbott and AbbVie on January 1, 2013.