One of the Largest and Most Innovative Eye Banks in the World
The Minnesota Lions Eye Bank serves the community by providing donor eye tissue for transplant, research, and teaching and by promoting donation through education.
As one of the largest and most innovative eye banks in the world, the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank has helped restore sight to more than 27,000 people, and the organization reaches important milestones in eyesight restoration every year.
The Lions’ Share
Founded in 1960, The Minnesota Lions Eye Bank is a non–profit organization primarily funded by Minnesota Lions through the work of the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation, Inc. The eye bank is affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Ophthalmology and is the first of many partnerships between the Lions and the University of Minnesota. Minnesota Lions Eye Bank operates under the university and the direction of a 22-member Lions Board of Directors.
The Lions generate public support and awareness for the eye bank. Lions club activities educate the community and contribute greatly to the success of the eye bank. Much of the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank’s recognition in the state is due to the outreach of Lions members.
Corneal Storage Breakthrough
In its early days, cornea transplantation was similar to modern organ transplantation: A donor cornea had to be transplanted within a few hours of the donor’s death. This restriction severely limited the number of potential transplants.
In 1972, the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank helped develop a preservation solution for corneas. This solution preserved the cornea for up to two weeks and permitted corneal surgeries to be performed as scheduled procedures. Short–term storage revolutionized eye banking. The technology is still in use around the world today.
Help from Funeral Directors
In 1974, The Minnesota State Legislature authorized properly–trained funeral directors to perform enucleation (surgical eye removal) procedures. Prior to this law, only ophthalmologists enucleated, placing stringent limitations on eye donation, especially in greater Minnesota.
Both the eye bank and funeral directors enthusiastically embraced the new program, which subsequently expanded to include nurses, emergency medical technicians, and other medical personnel in addition to funeral directors.
In 2003, the eye bank began in situ procurement (cornea only removal) in metropolitan areas. Statewide in situ recovery soon followed.
In 2007, the eye bank began offering corneal tissue pre-cut for endothelial keratoplasty (EK) surgeries. EK is a specialized type of corneal transplant in which only the inner layer of the cornea is transplanted. EK surgery offers a more conservative surgical approach for patients whose corneal disease involves only the endothelial cells-about 40% of corneal patients.
Now located at University Enterprise Laboratories, a non-profit bioscience incubator in Saint Paul's "bioscience zone," the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank has provided corneas for more than 27,000 transplant surgeries. Across the world, countless people have been helped by more than 22,000 eyes provided by our eye bank for research that leads to the development of treatments and cures.
The eye bank is accredited by the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).