The Corneabank of the Ophthalmology Department of the Charité University Hospital Berlin.

Corneabanks play a key role in acquiring, conserving and allocating corneas from human donors.

The Corneabank of the Ophthalmology Department of the Charité was founded in 1995. The corneabank is currently the only institution in the german states of Berlin and Brandenburg that is able to cultivate donated corneas in organ culture, a process which allows for the preservation of corneas for 4 to 6 weeks.

Our corneabank has been a member of the Consortium of the German Corneabanks (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutscher Hornhautbanken) since 1997. The Consortium strives to standardise the quality control of donated cornea.

What happens in the corneabank?

After we are notified of a death, the relatives of the deceased are contacted and informed of the possibility of donating corneas.

If the relatives agree to donate the cornea of the deceased, a member of our team professionally extracts the cornea and immediately delivers it to the corneabank. By inserting a special contact lens in place of the cornea, we ensure that the appearance of the deceased is not altered. The cornea will then be prepared for the organ culture in the corneabank. It will be examined under the microscope, documented by photograph and classified due to specific criteria. For example, the cornea can be classified according to the density of the [endothelial] cells, which are located on the back of the cornea.

This careful analysis and the monitoring of the cornea in stock, ensure for the optimal allocation of transplants. Microbiological tests and examination of donor blood simultaneously ensure that no diseases are being transmitted. Following the primary detailed examination, the cornea will be cultured, or placed in a special bottle with a culture medium containing specific nutrients and antibiotica. To ensure sterility, the examination and cultivation of cornea is carried out in a specific and separate corneabank laboratory. The bottles containing the cornea and the culture medium are stored in an incubator at the optimal temperature of 32°C, allowing the cornea to be cultivated for 2 to 6 weeks.

The cornea will be placed in a transport medium, or dehydrating medium 2-5 days prior to the operation. Sterility of the cornea during cultivation is ensured by the examination of nutrient solution samples through a responsible microbiological institute.

Apart from ensuring strict quality assurance, the corneabank prides itself in creating optimal cornea matches for recipients on the waiting list. Many factors play an integral role in optimal matching including age, basic condition of the recipient, urgency of the surgery and the risk of rejection. Cornea preservation for at least two weeks makes the optimal matching of corneas, the planning of surgery and preparation of patients possible. We ensure that our patients on the waiting list receive the best matched cornea. In addition, we are able to treat perforated cornea by emergency surgery immediately. Therefore, we also provide corneas to other clinics for emergency surgery.

We work in collaboration with the European BIS Foundation in Leiden, Netherlands, to optimize the matching and the allocation of cornea.

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