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The Abu Dhabi Department of Health — Abu Dhabi and US-based non-profit eye bank Eversight on Wednesday to set up the UAE first Eye and Tissue Bank.

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has announced that it will set up the UAE first Eye and Tissue Bank in order to facilitate a seamless eye transplantation framework in the country.

The Eye and Tissue Bank will be developed and operated under a partnership between health care regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health — Abu Dhabi (DoH) and US-based non-profit eye bank Eversight. The two entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with the DoH represented by Abdullah Al Hamed, Chairman, and Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, Undersecretary, while Carrie Wolverton represented Eversight as its global development director.

Tissue imports

In a statement on Wednesday, the DoH said the agreement will enable the creation of the tissue bank in three phases, including programme design, implementation and management. In its early stages, both entities will focus on implementing the necessary arrangements for the Eye and Tissue Bank — Abu Dhabi to serve as an importer for corneas and other eye-related tissues into the region, while also integrating the eye and tissue banking programme into the UAE’s National Programme for Organ Donation and Transplantation.

Eversight will, in the meantime, develop a comprehensive medical framework to standardise and operate all clinical functions and procedures within the Eye and Tissue Bank — Abu Dhabi, in accordance with international best practices.

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Eye transplants

“Under the directives of our wise leadership, Abu Dhabi continues to partner with leading international bodies to elevate its national health care operations across all fronts. We are proud to have partnered with Eversight today to establish yet another impactful programme that contributes to maintaining and enhancing lives in the UAE and beyond. Through this partnership, we aim to further improve health care outcomes, and facilitate quick and seamless operations for all patients in need of eye-tissue transplantation in the UAE,” Dr Al Kaabi said.

“We encourage all community members to register their consent to donate organs and tissues post-mortem. While we work limitlessly to reiterate Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading destination for health care, we empower our community to partake in the journey to excellence through noble and sentimental actions as this,” he added.

World without blindness

“Our vision for the future is to expand our reach, connect more effectively with all communities and provide a life full of sight to anyone in need. Our vision is a world without blindness. This partnership is an enormous step towards that vision. This is the highlight of my 17 years in eye banking and we are very excited for the future,” said Erik Hellier, director of global development at Eversight.

Eversight history

Eversight’s mission began in 1947 when the fourth eye bank in the United States, previously known as the Illinois Eye-Bank, was established. Over time, as the critical demand for corneal tissue to treat preventable blindness surged, non-profit eye banks were set up in every state. Thirty-eight years later, the Michigan Eye-Bank, which was established in 1957, and the Illinois Eye-Bank formed a partnership that earned a reputation for clinical excellence, and attracted affiliations with other regional eye banks. In 2015, the network became known as Eversight.

UAE efforts

Meanwhile, the UAE is continuing to encourage organ donation among its residents, with Abu Dhabi launching the Abu Dhabi Community Campaign to support Hayat, the UAE’s National Programme for Organ Donation and Transplantation. The campaign was kicked off at the International Conference for Initiatives on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation in the capital, with Al Hamed, DoH chairman, becoming the first to register as an organ and tissue donor on the Hayat platform.

At the conference, leading UAE experts said the country’s organ transplantation services have been expanding rapidly since the nation defined brain death in 2016 to pave the way for deceased organ and tissue donations. Since then, the UAE has seen 109 deceased organ donors save the lives of more than 400 patients in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Recipients have received kidneys, hearts, livers, lungs, pancreas, and bone marrow in transplantation procedures conducted in the UAE’s five transplant centres.