According to statements from medical professionals in the USA, the transplantation of a complete eye has reportedly been successful for the first time worldwide. The medical staff at New York University’s Langone Health revealed on Thursday that it is still unclear whether the patient will ever be able to see with the transplanted eye. Since the 21-hour operation in May, the transplanted eye has displayed “remarkable signs of health,” including blood supply to the retina. James, the patient, expressed that it feels good, although he is not yet able to move the eye and lid.
The hospital characterized this achievement as a “groundbreaking” success in transplantation medicine. Even medical professionals not directly involved in the procedure acknowledged the operation as a significant advancement.
The patient, Aaron James, suffered a 7200-volt electrical shock in a workplace accident in 2021, where his face came into contact with a power line. As a result, he lost his left eye, parts of his face, and portions of his left arm.
The surgeons transplanted the left eye and parts of the face from a deceased donor to the 46-year-old. According to the university clinic, more than 140 surgeons and additional medical staff were involved in the operation.
While corneal transplants have been a common procedure for a long time, transplanting an entire eye has never been accomplished before. It remains uncertain whether such a procedure can restore vision as the optic nerve, with its approximately one million nerve fibers, is severed.
“This Gives Hope to Many People Around the World”
Doctors acknowledged the transplantation in New York on Thursday. “This is a huge deal,” said Professor of Surgery Kia Washington from the University of the State of Colorado. Despite the time that has passed since the operation, she does not expect the patient to ever be able to see with the eye. “But I never say that something is impossible.”
Daniel Pelaez from the University of Miami referred to it as a “key moment” in attempts to restore eyesight to people. “This gives hope to numerous people worldwide.”
Researchers are already exploring how the optic nerve could be restored, for example, through gene therapy. They are also investigating whether a connection between the eye and the brain could be established by bypassing the damaged optic nerve. “We are making significant progress in treatments to achieve regeneration of the optic nerve, which could accompany an eye transplant,” said Jeffrey Goldberg from Stanford University.