Surgeons in New York marked a pivotal moment in the history of the health field as they say they have performed the world’s first complete eye transplant on a man, although it is not certain he will regain vision.
Aaron James, a high-voltage utility line worker from Arkansas, underwent a groundbreaking surgery to replace half of his face and a full eye transplant, marking a significant breakthrough in the quest to restore sight to millions of people.
James, 46, lost most of his face in 2021 after he accidentally touched a 7,200-volt live wire.
The 21-hour surgery was performed by over 140 healthcare professionals at New York University (NYU) Langone Health, making it the world’s first full eye transplant, BBC reported.
The rare procedure was successful, and James’ surgeons revealed on Thursday that he was making a full recovery from the dual transplant.
While it is unclear if he will recover vision, the surgeons at NYU Langone Health do not rule out the possibility either as they reported that the donated eye appeared exceptionally healthy, and his right eye still works.
This medical milestone offers hope to millions of people worldwide who suffer from vision loss. This successful eye transplant could pave the way for more complex procedures in the future.
“The mere fact that we’ve accomplished the first successful whole-eye transplant with a face is a tremendous feat many have long thought was not possible,” said Dr Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the leading surgeons on the team.
“We’ve made one major step forward and have paved the way for the next chapter to restore vision.”
“We’re not claiming that we are going to restore sight,” Dr Rodriguez told ABC News. “But there’s no doubt in my mind we are one step closer.”
“If I can see out of it, that’s great,” James said in an interview. “But if it’ll kick-start the next path in the medical field, then I’m all for it.”
James, a military veteran, will continue to be monitored by doctors but has seen “exceptional” progress with his eye transplant, according to Bruce E Gelb, MD, a transplant surgeon at NYU.
The donated face and eye came from a male donor in his 30s, and stem cells were injected into the optic nerve for repair.
James has called the eye transplant “life-changing” and says he is “grateful beyond words” to the donor and their family for making the surgery possible.
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