Introduction NHS Blood and Transplant Tissue and Eye Services (TES) is a human multi-tissue, tissue bank supplying tissue for transplant to surgeons throughout the UK. In addition, TES provides a service to scientists, clinicians and tissue bankers by providing a range of non-clinical tissue for research, training and education purposes. A large proportion of the non-clinical tissues supplied is ocular tissue ranging from whole eyes, to corneas, conjunctiva, lens and posterior segments remaining after the cornea is excised. The TES Research Tissue Bank (RTB) is based within the TES Tissue Bank in Speke, Liverpool and is staffed by two full-time staff. Non-clinical tissue is retrieved by Tissue and Organ Donation teams across United Kingdom. The RTB works very closely with two eye banks within TES, the David Lucas Eye Bank in Liverpool and the Filton Eye Bank in Bristol. Non-clinical ocular tissues are primarily consented by TES National Referral Centre Nurses.
Methods and Results The RTB receives tissue via two pathways. The first pathway is tissue specifically consented and retrieved for non-clinical use and the second pathway is tissue that becomes available when tissue is found to be unsuitable for clinical use. The majority of the tissue that the RTB receives from the eye banks comes via the second pathway. In 2021, the RTB issued more than 1000 samples of non-clinical ocular tissue. The majority of the tissue, ~64% was issued for research purposes (including research into glaucoma, COVID-19, paediatrics and transplant research), ~31% was issued for clinical training purposes (DMEK and DSAEK preparation, especially after COVID-19 cessation of transplant operations, training for new eye bank staff) and ~5% was issued for in-house and validation purposes. One of the findings was that corneas are still suitable for training purposes up to 6-months after removal from the eye.
In 2021, the RTB received 43 applications for ocular projects from new customers and supplied to 36 different projects, meeting 95% of all orders placed this year.
Discussion The RTB works to a partial cost-recovery system and in 2021 became self-sufficient. The supply of non-clinical tissue is crucial for advancement in patient care and has contributed to several peer-reviewed publications.
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