Gerhard has lattice dystrophy which affects the cornea, the window at the front of the eye. His cornea keeps frosting over and the only way to fix this is with a cornea transplant every few years.
“It’s a genetic problem. It’s in both eyes and it keeps growing back, even after a transplant,” says Gerhard.
“My father had the same condition. I went to visit him one time and I walked up to him, and he said, ‘Who’s that?’ His vision was so bad he couldn’t see his own son.”
Gerhard has been to Sydney Eye Hospital many times over the years. His doctor is Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation Board Director, Professor Gerard Sutton. As well as performing intricate eye surgery, Professor Sutton is also leading world-first research into the bioengineering of a cornea in the lab.
“Ultimately, we want to build an entire cornea within the laboratory,”
says Professor Sutton.
“For people like Gerhard waiting for a corneal transplant, it means that, first, you could get the transplant anytime you wanted rather than wait for a donated cornea, and, secondly, you could potentially manufacture it so that it was actually better than a donated cornea.”
Research like this won’t only change Gerhard’s life. It has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people across the world by giving them the gift of sight.
Corneal disease is the third most common cause of blindness in the world. An estimated 10 million people are waiting for corneal transplant at the moment, but there aren’t enough donated corneas. A bioengineered cornea will change that.
World class hospitals like Sydney/Sydney Eye Hospital build a reputation by their ability to translate their research into treatment and potential cures for the thousands of patients who rely on the specialist expertise each year.
And as Australia’s first hospital, it has a long history of sharing and extending our knowledge globally. Our strong track record in collaboration and supporting sight-saving research can be largely attributed to the founding of the Foundation, the hospital’s dedicated charity, forty years ago.
In that time, with the generous support of a caring community, the Foundation has given more than $20 million to projects benefiting people, programs, equipment and research.
When people donate to the Foundation for research, they are effectively investing not just in their own eye health but that of their children and grandchildren.