Frederick Fraunfelder, MD, MBA (left)
Xu Han, PhD (right)
Corneal cyropreservation and storage system
The global demand for human corneal transplants is estimated between 15 and 20million, but only about 180,000 corneal transplants are performed each year due to the limitations of the current cornea storage method. At the recommended storage temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius, corneas remain suitable for transplant for no more than 14 days. This creates a barrier to corneal transplants in countries that must rely on imported corneas. Although freezing would potentially increase the length of time corneas can be stored, the process of freezing corneas creates ice crystals that damage the cornea and make it unsuitable for transplantation. The principal investigators have developed an inexpensive and disposable device that protects corneal tissue from the damage caused by extracellular ice formation during the freezing process. When combined with the investigators’ novel cryoprotectant medium, the device becomes a complete system for preservation and long-term storage of corneas in standard freezers. This system will greatly reduce the cost of cryostorage of corneas and will make it possible to build inventories of high quality corneas in areas where the need for corneas currently is unmet. The novel cryopreservation system also has applications for preservation of artificial and other natural human tissues.