OAN’s Elizabeth Volberding
6:15 PM – Thursday, November 9, 2023
A surgical crew at New York University’s Langone Health in New York reportedly accomplished the world’s first successful whole-eye transplant in a man named Aaron James.
James claimed that the eye-transplant performed on him, which was fused with a face transplant, did not fully restore his vision. However, experts say that it is still an “extremely groundbreaking” accomplishment.
James, who is a 46-year-old military veteran, underwent a tragic accident in 2021 during an operation at work where he lost his left eye and part of his face.
The accident involved high-voltage power lines that demolished the majority of his face and one eye. His face accidentally touched a live wire, which potentially could have resulted in a fatal electric shock. Fortunately, his right eye is still functioning.
The surgical team at NYU’s Langone Health were determined to replace James’s missing eye and believed that the new one would produce better cosmetic results for his new face by maintaining the transplanted eye socket and lid.
On Thursday, the NYU surgical crew stated that, so far, their work has provided excellent results for him, although he still lacks vision in the left eye.
James is now in the process of recovering and healing from the dual transplant.
“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 press in an interview as surgeons examined his progress after the operation took place.
“You got to start somewhere, there’s got to be a first person somewhere,” added James, of Hot Springs, Arkansas. “Maybe you’ll learn something from it that will help the next person.”
The surgery, which took place in May, involved a team of over 140 crew members at NYU Langone Health to accomplish James’s transplant operation. The surgery lasted around 21 hours.
Certain forms of vision loss are frequently treated with corneal transplants, which replace the clear tissue in front of the eye. The mission to cure blindness is the transplantation of the entire eye, including the blood supply, the eyeball, and the vital optic nerve that links it to the brain.
James’s surgery now provides scientists with an unknown amount of time into how the human eye will attempt to heal. James also said that he is still very grateful to the donor and the donor’s family.
“We’re not claiming that we are going to restore sight,” said Doctor Eduardo Rodriguez, NYU’s plastic surgery chief, who directed the transplant. “But there’s no doubt in my mind we are one step closer.”
“Although there is no sight, we’ve crossed a barrier that many didn’t think was possible,” Rodriguez added. “Nothing like this has ever been attempted. There isn’t even any science published in the literature that could indicate what could be the result of such a transplant.”
James’s replacement face and eye was provided from a single donor. The eye had previously never been taken off of the donor’s socket, and the tissue around it and the optical nerve was still intact.
He now remains hopeful that vision in his left eye will be restored eventually, and that this procedure will support the advancement of transplant operations.
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