Cornea Research

Cornea research focuses on novel treatments and genetic analysis.

In addition to extensive research on other eye structures such as the retina, the Department of Ophthalmology engages in research on the structure and function of the cornea. The cornea serves multiple purposes in the eye. As one of the eye’s protective outer layers, it helps prevent germs and other harmful matter from entering the inner eye. In addition, the curvature of the cornea bends, or refracts, the light entering the eye, thereby contributing a substantial amount to the focusing power of the eye. There are several diseases and other conditions that can damage the cornea and interfere with a person’s vision, including keratoconus and corneal ectasia, two key areas of cornea research for the Department of Ophthalmology.

Keratoconus and corneal ectasia

Keratoconus is a progressive thinning and weakening of the cornea, which causes the cornea to bulge outward in the middle, causing a moderate to severe astigmatism and nearsightedness. Keratoconus also may cause swelling and scarring of corneal tissue, further distorting vision. Likewise, corneal ectasia is a condition resembling keratoconus in which the cornea also protrudes and bulges outward. Corneal ectasia almost always occurs when the cornea has been weakened by LASIK or PRK surgery.

Corneal collagen cross-linking

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is currently participating in a multicenter clinical trial of a novel treatment for keratoconus and corneal ectasia. This clinical trial is investigating corneal collagen cross-linking, a treatment designed to delay the progression of keratoconus or corneal ectasia by strengthening corneal tissue. The corneal collagen cross-linking trial is a safety, efficacy and dose dependency study that involves a medication called VibeX (also known as riboflavin or vitamin B2). Previous studies on collagen cross-linking have demonstrated that when vitamin B is absorbed into tissue, and that tissue is exposed to UV light, free radicals induce the formation of extra chemical bonds between collagen fibers. This process strengthens the tissue structure.

Genetic analysis cornea research

Other recent cornea research has focused on using genetic analysis to map the novel genes for Fuchs’ endothelial corneal dystrophy, a primarily hereditary disorder that causes painful corneal blisters and can lead to vision loss.

Advanced treatment for cornea conditions

Henry Ford cornea specialists have extensive experience in the treatment of cornea conditions, regardless of their complexity. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it. Our patients have access to advanced diagnostic tests and treatment and, if eligible, related clinical trials.


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