The future of clinical ophthalmology may be endangered by the decline in the number of human donor eyes provided by U.S. eye banks according to an article published in the July 2006 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS).
According to a survey of U.S. members of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the major prohibitory factor in the use of human eye tissue is lack of availability of tissue meeting stringent criteria. The survey's conductor, Christine A. Curcio, PhD, of ARVO's Research Tissue Acquisition Working Group (RTAWG), found that only cost exceeded this factor among those surveyed. Respondents also indicated that local eye banks are the most common tissue source although most investigators use multiple tissues sources, including remote eye banks to acquire adequate human eye tissue needed for research.
The availability of human eye tissue for research has been severely impacted by federal regulations and state laws enacted over the last decade, and some individual eye bank practices may be of importance on a local level (e.g., laws prohibiting medical examiners from releasing eye tissue in cases of violent or suspicious death).
The RTAWG believes that the decline in human research tissue may be managed in the short term by researchers working closely with eye banks and other providers, communicating on a regular basis, and clarifying their experimental needs and expectations.
"No where do impediments to obtaining human eyes for research have more impact than in the effort to understand age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of new vision loss in the elderly," said Curcio, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "Macular degeneration, an advanced form of which now has treatment options, still lacks a laboratory animal model that displays the full range of pathology typifying the human disorder. Thus, human tissues are particularly critical."
The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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