A team from NYU Langone Health in the US announced on Thursday that they had performed the first eyeball transplant on a human, Reuters reported.
They hail the achievement as a major achievement, even though the patient has not regained sight in the eye.
The recipient of the eye is Aaron James, a 46-year-old military veteran from Arkansas. In 2021, James was involved in a work accident that destroyed the left side of his face, nose, mouth and left eye.
Over the past six months, he has undergone several face transplants.
After the eye transplant, the blood vessels between the eye and James’ eye socket are functioning well. Surgeons from New York University say the retina looks promising.
James has not regained his sight, but doctors still believe there is a possibility of this happening.
– It would be great
– Just the fact that we have grown an entire eye is a huge step forward. Surgeon Eduardo Rodriguez, who led the New York University team, told Reuters that this had been thought about for centuries, but had never happened before.
Until now, doctors have only been able to transplant corneas, which are the transparent front layer of the eye.
-If some form of vision restoration occurs in the future, that would be great. But our goal for the operation was for the eyeball to survive the transplant, Rodriquez says.
He says they’ll be keeping a close eye on James moving forward.
It does not interact with the brain
The implanted eye does not currently communicate with the brain through the optic nerve, Rodriguez says. They still have hope that this will happen.
In an attempt to achieve interaction between the eye and the brain, surgeons used stem cells from donor bone marrow and injected them into the optic nerve during the transplantation process.
“If we can collaborate with other researchers working on the same thing, I think we can take another step closer,” Rodriguez says.
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James: I never expected that
James, who has a healthy right eye, knew there was little chance a transplant would restore his sight.
But he agreed to the extensive operation, which took 21 hours.
– The doctors did not expect him to succeed at all, and they told me that from the beginning. “I lost my sight anyway, so I thought they could at least learn something to help the next person,” James told Reuters.
James hopes the findings will open new opportunities for people needing eye transplants in the future.
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