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Determining the potential of the corneal transition zone for corneal transplants

Dr Jie Zhang, University of Auckland

Posted: Thu, 3 Nov 2016 

Disease, damage or loss of the innermost layer of the cornea (the corneal endothelium), can result in blindness. Current methods to repair the affected cornea involve corneal transplantation using donor endothelium. However, there isn’t a sufficient supply of donor cornea, limiting the number of patients that can be treated. And there is an increasing demand for corneal donors in New Zealand, partly driven by an ageing population and increased life expectancy.

Dr Jie Zhang, from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Auckland, has been awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant, with the ultimate aim of increasing the number of patients who can be treated from a single donor.

Dr Zhang will investigate a particular type of adult stem cell that has recently been found in a specific area of the cornea called the transition zone. This type of cell looks to have the potential to regenerate the corneal endothelium. The purpose of this research is to understand and manipulate these corneal cells, with the goal of treating corneal disease. If successful, each donor cornea could be a source for several transplants.

Total Funding: $300,000 (excl. GST) over 3 years

Researcher: Dr Jie Zhang, Ophthalmology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Victoria Street West, Auckland 1142