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St. Michael’s home to Canada’s first-ever Human Eye Biobank for Research

Toronto, January 24, 2014

Human eye biobank

Researchers in Canada and around the world will now be able to access rarely available human eye tissue thanks to the newly opened Human Eye Biobank for Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, a first of its kind in Canada. With eye tissue for research becoming prohibitively costly and scarce, the non-profit biobank will be a highly valuable resource for researchers around the world, removing barriers to the study of eye disease and accelerating scientific breakthroughs.

This is different from eye banks across Canada that provide corneas – the clear, front part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil – for people needing corneal transplants. The new eye biobank is unique because it ensures that all remaining tissue – normal and diseased – can be readily accessed by scientists wanting to pursue eye and brain related discoveries.

“It’s very hard for scientists to find human eye tissue for studies highly relevant to patients ,” said Dr. Yeni Yucel, founding director of the new eye biobank, a pathologist and scientist at St. Michael’s and director of Ophthalmic Pathology at the University of Toronto, serving most of Ontario. “Researchers from around the world will now be able to access good quality eye tissue to study hundreds of different diseases, such as diabetes or Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, stroke or even normal aging, to name just a few.”

Part of Dr. Yucel’s motivation in spearheading this initiative was to prevent tissue from going to waste. “This is a generous and precious gift, a donation of tissue. We want to honour eye donors and their families by ensuring the tissue is used to its full potential in the fight against blindness,” said Dr. Yucel.

Dr. Neeru Gupta, co-founder of the biobank and Dorothy Pitts Chair of Ophthalmology and Vision Science at St. Michael’s, adds: “Having access to human eye tissue is fundamental to understanding human diseases like diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, and will speed discoveries of new treatments to prevent blindness.”

The Human Eye Biobank for Research is located at St. Michael’s Hospital. Visit humaneyebank.com for more information.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.