Surgeons in New York have performed a complete eye transplant for the first time in history, although it is not certain that the recipient will ever regain their sight.
Aaron James, an Arkansas man, lost much of his face in 2021 when he accidentally touched a 7,200-volt line while working on a power line.
During a 21-hour operation in May – involving more than 140 people – much of the 46-year-old man’s face was restored, including the left eye that James lost in the accident. According to surgeons at NYU Langone Health hospital in New York, James is recovering well and the donated eye appears “remarkably healthy.”
The procedure also included a Belgian contribution: the company Materialize from Leuven made a virtual 3D planning of the operation, and 3D printed various medical devices tailored to the donor and the patient, making the operation, according to the company, “faster and more accurate.” could be carried out”.
Optic nerve recovery
However, it is far from certain that James will be able to see again in the long term. The retina – the part of the eye that transmits images to the brain – already receives blood, and stem cells from the donor were also injected into James’ optic nerve during the operation to speed up recovery.
It is far from certain that the man will regain his sight. “We don’t claim that either,” responded doctor Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the lead surgeons during the procedure. “But the fact that we have performed the first successful complete eye transplant is a tremendous achievement that many thought impossible. We have taken a big step forward, paving the way through the next chapter in restoring vision.”