Surgeons in New York, United States, have successfully conducted the world’s first complete eye transplant on a human.
This milestone surpasses previous procedures that involved only the transplantation of the cornea, the transparent front layer of the eye.
The recipient of this historic eye transplant is Aaron James, a 46-year-old individual who survived a severe work-related high-voltage electrical accident, resulting in extensive damage to the left side of his face, nose, mouth, and left eye.
To promote the healing process between the donor and recipient optic nerves, the surgical team at NYU Langone Health utilized adult stem cells harvested from the donor’s bone marrow.
These stem cells were injected into the optic nerve during the transplant, aiming to replace damaged cells and safeguard the nerve.
The intricate transplant surgery spanned 21 hours.
Six months post-surgery, the grafted eye has exhibited significant signs of health, including well-functioning blood vessels and a promising retina.
However, it’s noteworthy that the transplanted eye currently lacks communication with the brain through the optic nerve.
Eduardo Rodriguez, the leading surgeon, shared that the initial plan was to include the eyeball in a face transplant for cosmetic reasons.
He emphasized the historic nature of the eye transplant, stating, “The mere fact that we transplanted an eye is a huge step forward, something that for centuries has been thought about, but it’s never been performed.”
While the primary goal was the survival of the transplanted eyeball, Rodriguez acknowledged the potential for vision restoration.
He mentioned ongoing research exploring ways to connect nerve networks in the brain to sightless eyes using electrodes, opening new possibilities even if full sight is not restored in this instance.
Rodriguez expressed optimism about collaboration with other scientists working on various methods to restore vision or images to the visual cortex, signaling a significant stride toward advancements in vision-related medical procedures.