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New strategy lowers corneal transplant rejection

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It is often frightening news to hear that you may need a corneal transplant. Knowing that the surgery itself generally goes smoothly can help patients calm down. However, there are concerns about the possible rejection of the corneal transplant. A potential new strategy to improve the chances of acceptance of corneal transplants has been identified, reports Southwestern Medical Center on Dec. 30, 2013.

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It has been observed that for the estimated 10 percent of patients whose bodies reject a corneal transplant, the chances of a second transplant succeeding are poor. This could all change according to researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center who report they have found a way to improve the corneal transplant acceptance rate. Researchers discovered that corneal transplants in mice were accepted 90 percent of the time when the action of an immune system molecule which is called interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) was blocked and when the mice shared the same major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genotype as the donor cornea.

Corneal transplants are one of the most common and successful transplantation procedures done in the United States. There are more than 40,000 corneal transplants performed every year across the country. However, about 4,000 of these procedures fail every year because the recipient’s body rejects the corneal graft and requires a second operation. And so this research is important.

Patients are generally awake during a corneal transplant operation, writes Medline Plus. Medication is used to relax the patient. Local anesthesia is used to block pain and temporarily prevent eye muscle movement. The tissue for a corneal transplant comes from a donor who has recently died and who had agreed to donate their tissue.

Corneal transplants are recommended for people who have vision problems caused by thinning of the cornea, scarring of the cornea due to severe infections or injuries, or vision loss caused by cloudiness of the cornea. It is hoped this new research at UT Southwestern Medical Center will lead to lower rejection rates of transplanted corneas in people.



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