JOE CARROTTA / AFP
In this May 27, 2023 photo released by NYU Langone Health, Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez Aaron James on the first eye and part of his face transplant.
MEDICINE – This is a world first and brings great hope. American surgeons have performed the first complete eye transplant on a patient. However, he hasn’t regained his sight yet, at least not for a while.
The operation took place five months ago. And today, the patient’s eye still shows signs of very good health, including blood flow to the retina. These results leave experts “bewildered”according to Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who conducted the proceedings.
“There are millions of people who have lost their sight, and we are not saying we are going to fix this today”, the surgeon stated during a press conference on Thursday, November 9. “ But we are undoubtedly a little closer.”.
At the end of May, the operation lasted approximately 21 hours. It was conducted by a team from New York University Hospital NYU Langone Health. In addition to the left eye and eye socket, surgeons had also transplanted the nose, lips and other facial tissue from a donor.
The receiving patient, Aaron James, suffered a work accident in 2021 that could have cost him his life, when his face struck a power line. Since, no matter what, he had to take immunosuppressants to prevent rejection of the grafts applied to his face, this former soldier was an ideal candidate to perform an eye transplant.
“I can smell and eat again”
“Whether I can see it or not, it is what it is.”Aaron James said Thursday as he appeared at a news conference with his face completely uncovered and thanked the donor and his family. “You have to start somewhere, and I hope this sets in motion something that we can improve for the next patient.” »
“I can smell and eat again”he then told AFP, adding that he wanted to do that again “going out in public”. “For the first time in a year and a half I was able to kiss my wife”.
Could it be that the transplanted eye can then see again? “In medicine we never like to say never”replied Vaidehi Dedania, a retina specialist at NYU Langone Health. “We will continue to monitor it and see how things evolve. But we have a lot of hope. » “A large part of the retina is preserved and our tests show that it is capable of generating a signal”she explained.
The doctors did not expect such good results and a team was urgently formed to explore the different avenues that could help restore vision.
Aaron James, realizing that this surgery could only have an aesthetic benefit for him, has now been able to live with his wife and daughter in Arkansas, returning to New York every month for appointments.
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