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Recent advances in ophthalmology, tissue banking and cell therapies are
challenging the conventional activities and responsibilities of eye banks.
Developments in lamellar keratoplasty for instance, allowing for the selective replacement of the anterior stroma or the posterior stroma / endothelial layers, have led in many cases to a strengthening of the cooperation between eye banks and their corneal surgeons, as many surgeries are being performed with tissues pre-cut in the eye bank laboratory: a factor which has facilitated the success and extension of such lamellar procedures.
Similarly, a comprehensive approach to the treatment of ocular surface diseases has encouraged the use of autologous serum eye-drops and amniotic membrane transplantation, as complementary or alternative remedies for ocular surface disorders.
In addition, autologous cultured limbal stem cells have been used to restore damaged corneal surfaces in hundreds of patients with limbal stem cell deficiency.
Strategies aimed at the regeneration of conjunctival epithelium and corneal endothelium through cell therapy and genetic engineering of corneal stem cells are also under evaluation.
Such developments will have in the foreseeable future, or have had in some cases, an important effect on the way eye banks operate and connect with their corresponding tissue banks and advanced therapy units, in addition to their present links with their collaborating surgeons and their patients.
Besides additional research efforts, the application of new therapies requires eye banks, tissue banks and advanced therapy units to interact with different national and international regulatory bodies, in order to comply with legal, safety and quality standards.
The aim of the meeting is to discuss how synergies between eye banks, tissue banks and advanced therapy units could be exploited, and regulatory challenges overcome, in order to promote new developments which might eventually lead to new therapeutic services and treatments for patients with ocular surface diseases.
We look forward to welcoming you to Venice,
Diego Ponzin MD
Fondazione Banca degli Occhi del Veneto Onlus