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Subspecialties Retina, Retina, Basic & Translational Research

Collaboration of Culture

I first began collaborating with Shigeru in 1997. We met at an ophthalmology meeting and were discussing the need for corneal tissue in Japan. Since then, we’ve been providing Shigeru with tissue at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine and the other Kyoto institutes where he performs corneal transplantation. Over time, our relationship has grown. When starting his endothelial cell therapy research, Shigeru needed to secure a long-term commitment from an eye bank to provide him with enough research tissue to be eligible for a grant he was seeking. So around 15 years ago we formalized our commitment and we are proud to continue supporting his research.

It was thrilling to announce earlier this year that we are working with Shigeru to bring his groundbreaking endothelial cell therapy to the US. So far, 35 patients in Japan have received injections of cultured donor endothelial cells (See Box – Regenerating the Ocular Surface with Cultivated Endothelial Cell Therapy). Approximately one-third of these received their initial injections over two years ago and have gone on to have fantastic results: no complications, nor instances of graft rejection or infection – all issues that would be considered normal with corneal transplants. It’s an incredible achievement and it’s been inspiring to see such great results because there are so many patients who are not getting the treatment they need. The math just doesn’t add up: across the world, there are more than 10 million individuals with treatable corneal blindness, but only 150,000 corneal transplants are performed per year – partly because there is not enough donor tissue. With cultivated endothelial cell therapy, one donor cornea could reach so many more patients – upwards of 100. It has the potential to reach millions of people who are waiting for a sight-restoring treatment, and my ultimate hope is to one day eliminate all endothelial-related corneal blindness across the globe.

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About the Author

Monty Montoya and Shigeru Kinoshita

Monty Montoya is CEO of SightLife Surgical, and the former CEO of its nonprofit parent company SightLife. He joined SightLife in 1997, and has since been dedicated to transforming the cornea ecosystem by driving innovations in research, products, prevention and policy. He has been honored with prestigious awards for his vision and service, including the Ernst & Young 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Pacific Northwest Life Sciences category and the Eye Bank Association of America’s coveted Heise Award, which is given to a non-medical individual who has made the greatest contribution to advancing the cause of eye banking.
Shigeru Kinoshita established, along with Richard Thoft, the concept of centripetal movement of corneal epithelium. This shed new light on the importance of the limbal epithelium and contributed to the development of corneal stem cell theory. Over the last 30 years, his primary interests have been focused on the research and development of new therapeutic modalities for the cornea. To this end, Kinoshita’s group has established systems to transplant cultivated mucosal epithelial stem cells and cultivated corneal endothelium.

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