Chung-Ho Chen, 64, invented solution for preserving corneas

May 11, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Chung-Ho Chen, a scientist and inventor who created a way to extend the viability of human corneas intended for transplants, died May 4 at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center of injuries he suffered in an automobile accident. He was 64 and lived in Phoenix.

His car was struck by another vehicle at Beaver Dam Road and Industry Lane in Baltimore County on April 25, according to a police report.

In the 1990s, he formulated a nutrient-rich solution he named the Chen Medium for the preservation and storage of the human cornea -- the transparent tissue over the front of the eyeball. Dr. Chen's solution preserved a human cornea for up to 10 days so that it could be shipped safely to a recipient. He received a patent for his solution.

"His work was a major advance in extending the preservation life of donor corneas," said Dr. John D. Gottsch, professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins Hospital. "Tissues could survive for long enough periods of time such that they could be sent around the world for corneal transplantation. His contribution was for a specific nutrient which, when used by the cornea, would not lead to toxic waste and the death of the preserved cornea."

A former associate professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute from 1972 to 1992, Dr. Chen was a consultant in its Retinal Vascular Center, and was director of its Ophthalmic Biochemistry Laboratory and its Corneal Research Center.

In 1993, he founded Chen Laboratories in Hunt Valley.

He published nearly 200 articles relating to the biochemistry of the human eye in scientific journals. He also received numerous Federal Drug Administration research grants for corneal transplants -- as well as for his more recent studies of kidney and pancreas transplants.

Colleagues said he often worked alongside his wife, the former Sumi Lin, who survives him. They were married for 37 years.

"They were a happy couple in a happy lab," said Dr. Gottsch. "He had a sense of humor and was a pleasant, personable man to be around."

When he found that people in Taiwan were going blind because they could not get transplanted corneas, he founded International Transplantation Associates and the Taiwan Eye Bank.

Born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Dr. Chen was a graduate of Chung Shin University in Taiwan and earned a doctorate in biochemistry at Oklahoma State University. He did postdoctoral work at the Johns Hopkins University after moving to Baltimore in 1969.

He was a member of Sigma Xi, the New York Academy of Science, the Association of Clinical Scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the American Chemical Society.

Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. today at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Chen is survived by his son, Dr. Elliott Chen of Suffolk, N.Y.; three daughters, Dr. Annette Chen of Boston, Dr. Valentina Mark of San Francisco and Dr. Connie Chen of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

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