The Plastic Surgery Foundation
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Grants We Funded

Grant applicants for the 2022 cycle requested a total of over $2.9 million dollars. The PSF Study Section subcommittees of Basic & Translational Research and Clinical Research evaluated 115 grant applications on the following topics:

The PSF awarded research grants totaling almost $550,000 to support 19 plastic surgery research proposals.

ASPS/PSF leadership is committed to continuing to provide high levels of investigator-initiated research support to ensure that plastic surgeons have the needed research resources to be pioneers and innovators in advancing the practice of medicine.

Research Abstracts

Search The PSF database to have easy access to full-text grant abstracts from past PSF-funded research projects 2003 to present. All abstracts are the work of the Principal Investigators and were retrieved from their PSF grant applications. Several different filters may be applied to locate abstracts specific to a particular focus area or PSF funding mechanism.

Corneal neurotization: studying a novel solution for neurotrophic keratitis

Principal Investigator
Joseph Catapano MD


The Hospital for Sick Children

Funding Mechanism
ASPN/PSF Research Grant

Focus Area
Peripheral Nerve, Microsurgery

Corneal sensation is a crucial component of corneal protective reflexes and is necessary for healing following corneal injury. Patients with cornea anesthesia are susceptible to corneal ulceration and poor corneal healing, resulting in scarring of the cornea and progressive vision loss and blindness. Current treatments, including corneal transplant, are ineffective in preventing blindness for these patients. At The Hospital for Sick Children, we use a novel surgical procedure, corneal neurotization, to restore corneal sensation in order to address the underlying pathophysiologic abnormality. Corneal neurotization transfers functioning sensory nerves from the contralateral side of the face to the cornea. To date, we have operated on 10 patients and all have demonstrated dramatic improvements in corneal sensation with no further vision loss. In order for patients world wide to benefit from the procedure, research is required to definitively document nerve regrowth after neurotization and further investigation is required to document how corneal reinnervation influences healing of the corneal epithelium.
Our research aims are to create a database of patients undergoing corneal neurotization in order to coordinate research at multiple centers worldwide. As corneal neurotization is a rare procedure, coordinating follow-up at multiple centers through a database will greatly increase our ability to synergize research efforts and aims in order to publish results and obtain further evidence regarding the post-operative outcomes of corneal neurotization. We will also investigate expanding post-operative monitoring to include in-vivo corneal confocal microscopy, which will provide more direct evidence of nerve regrowth following neurotization. Using protein and gene analysis, we will also investigate whether neurotization increases the corneal expression of neuromediators important for corneal healing and how these factors impact the corneal epithelium.
Corneal neurotization is a promising technique that gives hope to patients who currently have no other treatment options for the blindness that develops from corneal anesthesia. While the procedure is currently used exclusively for patients with congenital or traumatic etiologies of corneal anesthesia, the discoveries made through this research may be translated to the millions of people world-wide living with diabetic, leprotic or herpetic etiologies of corneal anesthesia.

I completed my undergraduate degree at McMaster University and medical school at the University of Ottawa, where I was awarded the Gold Medal in recognition of achieving the highest academic standing in my class. In 2011, I was accepted into the Plastic Surgery Program at the University of Toronto and subsequently into the prestigious Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Clinician-Investigator Program, which provides additional funding to pursue graduate research full-time. My PhD is under the supervision of Dr. Gregory H. Borschel at the Hospital for Sick Children. My research focuses on corneal neurotization, which is a novel surgical solution to restore vision in patients with corneal anesthesia. I am involved in both the clinical outcomes assessment and the development of an animal model of corneal neurotization in the laboratory. This model will further our understanding of how the corneal innervation influences the corneal epithelium and will provide a paradigm with which innovations to improve the outcomes of corneal neurotization can be investigated. My laboratory research compliments my clinical research aims, which are to definitively document nerve regrowth following neurotization using in-vivo corneal microscopy and to investigate how innervation affects the gene and protein expression in the corneal epithelium.