How does cornea and tissue donation work?

With medical advancements of gargantuan proportions, restoration of life has been made possible by the process of organ, eye and tissue donation. Even after countless advancement, over 100,000 people in the USA still await an organ or tissue transplant.

It is of paramount importance to be fully knowledgeable about the fundamentals and importance of organ and tissue transplant. Here, we talk about the ins and outs of tissue donation and its majorly common segment, cornea donation.

Tissue Donation

Tissue donation is far different from organ donation as it does not require the same conditions as organs to survive, i.e. it is possible to perform the surgery after the heart and lungs of the donor have stopped. Before understanding the process and applications of tissue donation, it is essential to throw some light on the types of tissues that can be donated.

Types of Tissues

  • Cornea
  • Heart Valves
  • Sclera (White of the eye)
  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Veins
  • Tendons

Applications of Tissue Donation

  • Skin donation helps in healing different types of life threatening burns.
  • A donated cardiovascular tissue which includes heart, valves, veins, and arteries can act as a perfect replacement for damaged heart valves and enables coronary and peripheral revascularization.
  • Donated bone tissue reduces the need for amputation and helps restore mobility to the military personnel whose bones and joints have been injured.
  • Donation of connective tissues allows athletes with torn ligaments and tendons to heal and offers the possibility of joint reconstruction in the hip, knee, and ankle.


In order for a tissue transplant to be performed, the potential donor has to have given a legally recognized consent for the donation. The procedure begins with the tissue recovery organization receiving a confirmation of a recent death from a hospital or funeral home, and then, the state donor registry is accessed and the family of the deceased is contacted. If no record is found in the registry, the legally authorized representative of the deceased is offered to authorize the donation. Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of death. The donated tissue can be stored for a long period of time for use in burnt skin or torn ligaments.

Cornea Donation

One of the most remarkable achievements of medical science is sight restoration through a cornea transplant. The cornea is the transparent dome-like front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil and anterior chamber, and accounts for two-thirds of the optical power. When the entire cornea is removed, it is known as penetrating keratoplasty, and when only a part of the cornea is removed, it is known as lamellar keratoplasty.

Every person, regardless of his/her blood type, is a universal cornea donor except for instances where the donor is suffering from infections. Since 1961, more than 1,500,000 people have witnessed miraculous sight restoration through cornea transplants.

Reasons for Cornea Donation

Corneal transplantation helps in the restoration of sight for people suffering from vision loss which can be caused by the following factors:

  • Fuch’s Dystrophy
  • Infections or injuries to the cornea
  • Pseudophakic Bullous Keratopathy
  • Degeneration of the cornea

Development in Corneal Transplantation

  • The previously deemed dangerous high-speed lasers are being replaced by precision blades.
  • Since 2004, an eye bank in Netherlands provides pre-cut donor corneas for advanced procedures (DSEK/DSAEK/FS-DSEK)
  • Bioengineering techniques introduced to create corneas to be transplanted into an eye



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