World’s first whole eye transplant performed in New York
This week, surgeons in New York achieved a historic milestone by conducting the world’s first full-eye transplant in a human, as part of a partial face transplant procedure.
While hailed as a groundbreaking achievement, the patient has not yet regained vision in the transplanted eye.
The surgical team at NYU Langone Health reported that, in the six months following the surgery, the transplanted eye has exhibited positive signs of health, including well-functioning blood vessels and a promising retina.
Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, the leader of the surgical team, emphasized the significance of the procedure, stating, “The mere fact that we transplanted an eye is a huge step forward, something that has been contemplated for centuries but has never been executed.”
Prior to this pioneering 21-hour operation, only the cornea, the clear front layer of the eye, could be transplanted.
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The recipient, Aaron James, a 46-year-old military veteran from Arkansas, suffered severe facial injuries, including the loss of his left eye, in a work-related high-voltage electrical accident.
Despite the positive signs, the transplanted eye is not currently establishing communication with the brain through the optic nerve.
In an effort to facilitate the connection between the donor and recipient optic nerves, surgeons utilized adult stem cells harvested from the donor’s bone marrow, injecting them into the optic nerve during the transplant.
Dr. Rodriguez acknowledged that even if sight is not fully restored in this instance, the transplantation of a viable eye globe opens up numerous possibilities. He highlighted ongoing research by other teams exploring methods, such as inserting electrodes, to connect nerve networks in the brain to sightless eyes and restore vision.
“I think we are one step closer,” Rodriguez concluded, expressing optimism about collaboration with scientists working on various approaches to restore vision and images to the visual cortex.
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