Impact of Donor Diabetes on DMEK Success and Endothelial Cell Loss (DEKS)

  • End date
    Mar 30, 2025
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Case Western Reserve University
Updated on 26 March 2022


This double-masked multi-center trial will evaluate the association of diabetes in the cornea donor with transplant success and loss of endothelial cells one year following Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK). Study eyes will be assigned to receive either a cornea from a donor without diabetes or a cornea from a donor with diabetes.


This study will address concerns about the suitability of corneas from donors with diabetes for use with DMEK through a prospective, masked, multi-center clinical trial in which the donor corneas are assigned by diabetes status in the same distribution proportion (2:1 distribution of tissue from donors without diabetes to tissue from donors with diabetes) currently used in the USA. The DEKS will assess graft success and endothelial cell density through 1 year following DMEK to determine whether the surgical success rate with corneas from donors with well characterized diabetes (including post-mortem hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and advanced glycation endproducts (AGE) testing) is inferior to the rate with donors without diabetes. The investigators hypothesize that the majority of donor corneas from individuals with diabetes will be suitable, but that a portion of donors with a higher diabetes severity scale, and/or poorer control based on HbA1c will have a greater risk for graft failure and endothelial cell loss. This study will also examine collected skin biopsies to determine whether high levels of AGE biomarkers in donor skin tissue - which quantifies disease severity over many years (and possibly coupled with elevated HbA1c levels) - is associated with greater risk for graft failure and cell loss. This novel approach to characterization of donor tissue can provide a paradigm shift in the risk assessment of transplanted corneas from diabetic donors. The effect of recipient diabetes on keratoplasty success and cell loss will also be studied in a rigorous manner to determine the potential combined effect of donor and recipient diabetes status.

In summary, this study is designed to determine if non-diabetic donor corneas are superior to diabetic donor corneas in terms of both graft success and endothelial cell density outcomes, with an additional specific aim to determine whether donors with a higher diabetes severity scale, and/or poorer control based on HbA1c are driving the effect. This study will also determine whether a high AGE/A1c metric is also associated with the potential superiority finding and establish a novel composite score (severity score, HbA1c and AGE/A1c) based on these metrics that can be used to identify high versus low risk diabetic donors. This distinction may enable eye banks to potentially utilize the majority of donors with diabetes for EK surgery, while excluding the severely affected donors with diabetes.

Condition Corneal Endothelial Decompensation, Fuchs' Endothelial Dystrophy
Treatment Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05134480
SponsorCase Western Reserve University
Last Modified on26 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Age range 30- < 91 years with minimum life expectancy of at least 1 year
Willingness to return to study site for follow up at 1 month and 1 year
Fluent in English or Spanish
Willingness to have fingerstick blood sample collected to determine HbA1c level at entry and at 1 year. The participant must agree to have their primary care provider contacted (or an appropriate referral provided) if they were not known to have diabetes and the HbA1c suggests they may have diabetes. Similarly, if already known to have diabetes and the HbA1c is high, the participant must agree to have their primary care provider contacted or an appropriate referral provided
Has at least one eye clinically recommended for DMEK that is able to be scheduled for DMEK between 5 to 90 days after enrollment. If second eye is enrolled, it must be scheduled for DMEK between 7 days and 6 months after DMEK on the first eye
Has a condition related to endothelial dysfunction which will be treated by DMEK. Eligible indications for DMEK include
Presence of Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) meeting at least one of the following: phakic FECD with or without cataract (triple procedure including DMEK for FECD, cataract extraction and posterior chamber intraocular lens implantation (IOL) is allowed)
pseudophakic FECD with posterior capsule supported, sulcus supported, or scleral-fixated posterior chamber IOL
pseudophakic corneal edema with posterior capsule supported, sulcus supported, or scleral-fixated posterior chamber IOL without FECD
failed Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK) or DMEK originally performed for the same indications above without current exclusionary criteria, as described below

Exclusion Criteria

Pregnant or planning to become pregnant prior to the DMEK study surgery, based on verbal report
Lack cognitive capacity such that consent could not be provided
Presence of a condition that has a high probability for failure (e.g., failed penetrating keratoplasty, uncontrolled uveitis)
Stromal vascularization that will impede assessment of recipient stroma clarity
Other primary endothelial dysfunction conditions including posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy and congenital hereditary corneal dystrophy
Indication for surgery that is not suitable for DMEK (e.g, keratoconus, stromal dystrophies and scars)
Aphakic corneal edema with or without FECD
Anterior chamber IOL in study eye prior to DMEK or planned placement of anterior chamber IOL during DMEK
Presence of vitreous in the anterior chamber
Planned IOL exchange of an anterior chamber IOL with a posterior chamber IOL in study eye at time of study DMEK
Pre-operative central sub-epithelial or stromal scarring that could impact post-operative recipient stromal clarity assessment
Presence of anterior synechiae
Peripheral anterior synechiae in the angle greater than a total of three clock hours
Uncontrolled glaucoma with or without prior filtering surgery, tube shunt placement, or MIGS. Uncontrolled glaucoma is defined as intraocular pressure > 25mm Hg
Controlled glaucoma with prior tube shunt placement for glaucoma (controlled glaucoma with minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) or trabeculectomy is allowed)
Fellow eye visual acuity < 20/200 due to an ocular condition other than a cornea disease that would be a candidate for DMEK
Intraocular pressure <8 mmHg
Topical Rho kinase inhibitor, including netarsudil, used within 1 month prior to study entry and anticipated during the course of the study
Fellow eye enrolled in the DEKS that has met study-criteria for graft failure
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