The partnership between Aquavella and Dohlman stretches back nearly half a century. Aquavella was the first doctor in the nation to serve a fellowship focused specifically in cornea surgery, in the early 1960s; he served under Dohlman, a leading figure in corneal science. The two physicians have worked together since, with Dohlman developing better artificial corneas, and Aquavella doing cornea transplants on thousands of patients. Together the pair has logged more than 100 years treating patients blinded by severe cornea disease or injury and creating new ways to treat them.
Among the efforts has been a series of designs for artificial corneas, which in adults are primarily for patients whose previous transplants using traditional tissue have failed, oftentimes because of rejection by the immune system.
Dohlman's latest implant, the Boston Keratoprosthesis used in the recent studies of infants and adults, is about the size of a contact lens and is sewn into the patient's eyeball with a piece of donor tissue to hold the implant in place, like a washer. The device is made of a newer type of plastic that allows nutrients to enter the eye more quickly than previous designs. The latest procedure also includes a large contact lens placed over the cornea to help protect it from inflammation and scarring. After the procedure patients use antibiotic eye drops each day for the rest of their lives to prevent infection.
The current procedure is less invasive and cumbersome than some other efforts to implant artificial corneas. In the procedure carried out by Aquavella and other surgeons 30 years ago, physicians would remove a piece of leg bone from the patient and place the bone over the eye to help it heal and to protect it. And in another procedure still common today, physicians enshroud the implant in a patient's tooth socket, stash the mix in the patient's ch
Source:University of Rochester Medical Center