The cornea is the clear part of the eye in front of the iris and pupil. Treatment of a diseased or damaged cornea is typically done through corneal grafting or corneal transplants (replacing damaged tissue with donated tissue). Advances in microscope technology enable surgeons to get a better view of the surgical field during surgery, while advances in materials science enable them to use sutures finer than human hair. Each of these advancements has improved the outcomes of corneal surgery.
Artificial corneal transplants are a newly emerging treatment option. Some patients don't respond favorably to donated corneal tissue but have shown great results in working with artificial corneas. Mercy Clinic has been involved in the research and clinical trials of artificial corneas.
Another key player in the success of corneal transplants is eye banks. These organizations are located throughout the world to coordinate the distribution of donated corneas to surgeons, as well as providing eyes for research. Advancements in the removal and storage of donated tissue have allowed for improved outcomes. Mercy Clinic works with the Heartland Lions Eye Bank and performs the most cornea transplants in the region.
Exciting research is also underway to grow corneal tissue in the laboratory from stem cells.