Every year thousands of lives are improved through corneal donation, however, valuable research still needs to be carried out to develop treatments and gain a deeper understanding of sight-threatening diseases.
There is a shortage of donated eye tissue for both transplantation and research. The Royal Liverpool University Hospital, through St Paul's Eye Unit along with the University of Liverpool’s Department of Eye and Vision Science, developed a joint venture: The Liverpool Eye Donation Centre (LEDC). The LEDC’s sole aim is to maximise the number of eyes donated in Merseyside both to transplant and research and to secure consent from potential donors’ next of kin to collect these invaluable tissues.
St Paul's Research Foundation funds the Liverpool Research Eye Bank (LREB) which is based in the Department of Eye and Vision Science. In collaboration, the LEDC and LREB work together to arrange timely retrieval of the consented tissue, which the LREB will then process, store and issue for use in research.
Donated tissues will always be prioritised for transplantation; however, many potential eye donors are found to be unsuitable for transplantation. All tissue however can be used in research; the LEDC and LREB give the families of people who have passed away the opportunity to donate and to make a real difference to ground-breaking research by world-leading scientists.
The donation process is underpinned by informed consent. The LEDC will contact the decedent’s family and give them information, an opportunity to discuss the process and the chance to ask any questions they may have. Donation is totally voluntary and relies on the generosity of donors and their families. Anyone can donate to research regardless of age, health conditions or sight problems. Access to donated tissue is strictly regulated in accordance with the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) regulations. Tissue is stored in secure facilities and can only be accessed following a strict application process following ethical approval from a Research Ethics Committee and all tissues are anonymised at the time of collection.
Facts & Figures
- There are more than 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK and an estimated 6 million people living with sight-threatening eye-conditions
- The main causes of sight loss are; uncorrected refractive errors (corneal issues), age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy
- Anyone can donate their eyes to research regardless of their age, race, medical history and eye conditions
- Just one eye could be used by as many as 8 different projects
The LREB supports research that will lead to significant advances in our understanding and treatment of ocular diseases and may lead to new treatments that will improve the quality of life for many people.
There are a number of research projects currently underway (15 as of March 2020) all with a need for donated eye tissue. The majority of projects (75%) are looking into the main areas of sight loss such as corneal diseases, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy with the remaining 25% of projects looking at other areas of ocular health. Such research however, is highly dependent upon the availability of donated eye tissue.
To read about some of the ongoing projects - visit the Department of Eye and Vision Science webpage
As a tissue bank, the LREB not only supplies fresh tissues to researchers but also retains, or ‘banks’, those tissues not immediately needed, for use in future project work. The LREB has various ocular tissues stored, available for use at any time. If you are a researcher requiring tissue for your project for details on availability or to discuss your requirements, please contact the LREB technician Samantha Moss (please see “our team” for contact details).
“I would really like to offer my sincere thanks to the donors and their families for agreeing to donate eye tissue to research. I say this as the manager of the LREB but also as a researcher in the Department of Eye and Vision Science. In our department there are so many exciting new research projects making steps towards new treatments and a better understanding of eye disease that are only made possible through the use of human ocular tissue. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to access that tissue here in Liverpool so we hope that the people of Liverpool continue to support the LREB.”The LREB manager