Donation of human eyes and corneal tissue is necessary for the restoration and preservation of sight. Of the more than 50,000 cornea transplant operations performed each year, 95 percent successfully restore vision to persons suffering from corneal blindness.

Almost anyone can be an eye donor-cataracts, prior ocular surgery, diabetes, glaucoma, cancer, and poor eyesight do not necessarily prohibit one from donating. One eye donor can help up to six eye transplant recipients.

 

The Cornea and Sclera

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The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped lens over the colored iris. The sclera, the white part of the eye, consists of the same tissue as the cornea. The cornea, however, is more hydrated, which gives it its clear appearance. About the size of a dime, the cornea is the transparent window that covers the pupil of the eye, similar to a watch crystal that protects a clock’s face. Only between 500 and 600 microns thick (about 1/2 a millimeter), the cornea has five layers, each of which performs a specific function.

The epithelium protects the cornea. Bowman's layer is smooth membranes composed of strong collagen fibers that help the cornea maintain its shape. The stroma comprises 90 percent of the cornea and consists of collagen fibers. These fibers are transparent due to their alignment. Descemet's membrane is the basement membrane that lies between the stroma and the endothelium. The endothelium consists of cells which act as a pump to keep the cornea clear.

We are born with roughly 4,000 of these cells which gradually die due to aging, injury, or disease. Once these cells can no longer keep the cornea clear (corneas can cloud at any age), a cornea transplant is required to restore vision.

Corneas can be used for restoring sight, repairing the integrity of the eye, and reconstruction. Sclera is used for glaucoma surgery, eyelid repair, and periodontal surgery.
 
Recovering Eye Tissue

CNYETB recovers eye tissue up to 24 hours after death. We recover transplantable eye tissue from suitable donors between ages 2 and 72 and research tissue from donors of all ages.
Upon notification of a potential donor, CNYETB conducts a thorough medical screening to determine donor suitability. Our professional staff then refers to the NY State Donate Life Registry and contacts donor next-of-kin to obtain authorization. CNYETB also completes a comprehensive donor risk assesment before recovering.

CNYETB recovers in hospital rooms, at hospital morgues, and at its own modern recovery suite, using standard surgical procedures. CNYETB’s professional, skilled recovery technicians (including Certified Eye Bank Technicians) manage the recovery process. Eye area restoration is consistent with funeral director practices, and open casket funerals remain a viable option.
Recovered eye tissue is processed and evaluated at CNYETB’s eye laboratory, then prepared for placement and transplant.
 
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CNY Eye Surgeons & Transplants

CNYETB averages 275 ocular tissue recoveries annually, meeting the surgical needs of our local and regional ophthalmologists. By partnering with 14 eye surgeons in Central New York, close to 85 percent of the recovered tissue is utilized within our region. After serving local needs, CNYETB provides ocular tissue to meet the transplant demand statewide, nationally, and internationally.

In addition to intact ocular tissues, CNYETB provides pre-cut tissue for endothelial and anterior lamellar procedures; imports specialty tissue upon request; provides ocular tissue for research and training; and supplies eye tissue 24-hours a day, seven days a week for scheduled and emergency surgeries.