Surgeons Perform World’s First Eye Transplant
- November, 10, 2023 - 11:56
- Space/Science news
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Surgeons have performed the world’s first transplant of an entire human eye, an extraordinary addition to a face transplant, although it’s far too soon to know if the man will ever see through his new left eye.
An accident with high-voltage power lines had destroyed most of Aaron James’ face and one eye. His right eye still works. But surgeons at NYU Langone Health hoped replacing the missing one would yield better cosmetic results for his new face, by supporting the transplanted eye socket and lid.
The NYU team announced Thursday that so far, it’s doing just that. James is recovering well from the dual transplant last May and the donated eye looks remarkably healthy.
“It feels good. I still don’t have any movement in it yet. My eyelid, I can’t blink yet. But I’m getting sensation now,” James told The Associated Press as doctors examined his progress recently.
Whatever happens next, James’ surgery offers scientists an unprecedented window into how the human eye tries to heal.
One scientist who has long studied how to make eye transplants a reality called the surgery exciting.
“It’s an amazing validation” of animal experiments that have kept transplanted eyes alive, said Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg, chair of ophthalmology at Stanford University.
The hurdle is how to regrow the optic nerve, although animal studies are making strides, Goldberg added. He praised the NYU team’s “audacity” in even aiming for optic nerve repair and hopes the transplant will spur more research.
Face transplants remain rare and risky. James’ is only the 19th in the US, the fifth Rodriguez has performed. The eye experiment added even more complexity. But James figured he’d be no worse off if the donated eye failed.
Three months after James was placed on the national transplant waiting list, a matching donor was found. Kidneys, a liver and pancreas from the donor, a man in his 30s, saved three other people.