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Donated Eye Tissue Brings Answers To Other Diseases

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Organ transplants

are often called the gift of life, but there is still great need for donors. Every year, cornea transplants restore vision to thousands of people, but there are many other ways for eye donors to make a difference.

Just a few months ago, Joyce Lindsey said she was almost blind from cornea disease.

"I couldn't read. I couldn't drive," she said. "Everything was just like a cloud."

After two cornea transplants, Lindsey said her vision is exceptional.

"After my first transplant, my vision was so good I could see the grains on a piece of paper," she said.

Kurt Weber, the executive director of the North Carolina Eye Bank, said cornea transplant results are dramatic. He said there are many other uses for donated eye tissue.

"It's an amazing piece of your body," Weber said. "We try to maximize the gift that's been provided to us."

Researchers use donated eye tissue to create biologics, which are drugs made from human tissue. A drug for Parkinson's disease is already in clinical studies. The tissue is also being used to find treatments for Alzheimer's, strokes, and eye diseases, like macular degeneration.

Weber said it is showing how one person's decision can touch "hundreds of thousands of people." He added that the research could find a cure for the eye disease that runs in Joyce Lindsey's family.

Lindsey said her restored eyesight has been a gift of life.

"Yes, it was. If you can't see, what can you do? If you can't see anything, you can't do anything," said Weber.

Lindsey said many who do not qualify to be an organ donor can be an eye donor.


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