Corneal Research at Casey Eye Institute

At Casey Eye Institute, our doctors aren't just familiar with the latest treatments--they develop them. Our research on conditions affecting the cornea includes:

Lamellar Keratoplasty

Our corneal specialists have a longstanding interest in lamellar keratoplasty, or partial thickness corneal transplants. To date, these studies have yielded remarkable results. Corneal transplants usually involve replacing the entire cornea with donor tissue. The difficulty is often in accurately matching donor and recipient tissues. Sometimes, however, a person’s entire cornea does not need replacement. Our doctors are researching methods to improve partial cornea transplants with the help of an Intralase ™ laser , which processes donor tissue prior to transplantation. This procedure provides faster recovery after surgery, greater vision stability and better visual outcomes.

Cornea Stem Cell Transplants

Casey Eye Institute doctors are also researching cornea stem cell transplants. Cells from the periphery of the cornea are used to replace normal corneal cells damaged by chemical burns or disease. Donor cells are most effective when they come from the patient or a relative. These efforts also include the study of wound healing factors to accelerate healing in the cornea, and identifying agents that inhibit healing such as drugs, preservatives and sunlight.

Dry Eye

Several studies exploring tearfilm production in dry eye patients are currently underway at CEI. These include a variety of approaches to relieving dry eye discomfort. One study includes examining the effects of androgen, a kind of testosterone, on tearfilm production. Another study is exploring the use of blood serum to treat corneal ulcers and dry eye.


Doctors at CEI are on the forefront of researching acanthamoeba, a recently discovered and relatively rare parasitic infection in the cornea. This condition can cause chronic irritation and redness in the infected eye, in addition to an eventual reduction in vision. Acanthamoeba is detectable with a confocal microscope, an instrument that uses light to view cornea cells under very high magnification. Casey Eye Institute is the only center on the West Coast with a confocal microscope.

We are developing new methods to test antibiotics that work against this devastating problem. Such tests are currently unavailable anywhere. We hope to give doctors a way to test infections and determine the best treatments. We also are developing tests to determine the virulence of different strains of acanthamoeba, which vary greatly. Again, such tests are currently unavailable anywhere. Improved detection of acanthamoeba is also being pursued using DNA detection methods.

Confocal Inflammation

We are using the confocal microscope to investigate inflammation, such as in conjunctivitis and scleritis. We hope insight and understanding will bring new and better treatments for these conditions.

31204_250pxCorneal Dystrophies

We are investigating the genes that are the basis for several of the most important inherited disorders of the cornea. These diseases are the reason behind most corneal transplants. If we can identify the genes and how they work, we may be able to devise therapies to treat them rather than resorting to surgical replacement.

Dry Eye in Refractive Surgery Patients

Our doctors are working to evaluate how LASIK and PRK procedures affect tearfilm production and function, especially in those patients with dry eye after refractive surgery.

Effects of Drugs on Eyes

In one of the few research projects of its kind nationally, Casey Vision Correction Center doctors are researching the side effects of various drugs on eyes. Our doctors published the first paper exploring the effects of refractive surgery on people with diabetes.

Continued FDA Studies

Over the years, Casey Vision Correction Center has played a key role in gathering and reporting data as part of the FDA studies used to introduce and develop an excimer laser system.