Although surgeons have been able to transplant corneas successfully for years, the quest for a complete eye transplant has remained elusive. That is, until now.
Surgeons say Aaron James, who suffered a high-voltage electrical accident, is the first patient who has undergone the world’s first complete eye transplant on a man.
Although it is not certain James, a military veteran, will regain vision, this breakthrough is a pivotal moment in a decades-long search to restore sight to millions of people.
James, a high-voltage utility line worker from Arkansas, lost most of his face when it accidentally touched a 7,200-volt live wire in 2021. He had to have his left eye removed because of the pain.
A Dream Team To Do The Eye Transplant
In May of 2023, James underwent numerous surgeries. In all, more than 140 healthcare professionals were involved to help replace half of his face, provide him with a prosthetic arm, and – perhaps the most complex of all – the eye transplant.
The donated face and eye came from a single male donor in his 30s. During the surgery, doctors injected adult stem cells from the donor’s bone marrow into the optic nerve to encourage its repair.
Doctors say the donated eye is recovering well and looks remarkably healthy. The breakthrough surgery offers scientists an unprecedented window into how the human eye tries to heal. In fact, one of the reasons the doctors are most optimistic James may regain his sight in his left eye is that there is direct blood flow to the retina – the part of the eye that sends images to the brain.
He says he is “grateful beyond words” to the donor and their family for making the surgery possible and describes the eye transplant and its possibilities “life-changing”.
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