An Arkansas military veteran has become the first patient in the world to have someone else’s eye transplanted after a near-deadly electrical accident.
Aaron James, 46, miraculously survived a 7,200-volt electric shock when his face accidentally touched high-voltage wiring in 2021.
The accident left him with severe injuries to his left arm, nose, lips, front teeth, left cheek, and chin. His eye also had to be removed.
Up until this point, eye transplants had been thought impossible due to the complex network of nerves and blood vessels connecting the eye to the brain.
Doctors have now said it’s possible the father-of-one will be able to see out of the transplanted eye.
Aaron James, 46, is the first patient in the world to have someone else’s eye transplanted after a near-deadly electrical accident
Dr Eduardo D Rodriguez (right), lead surgeon director of the Face Transplant Program at NYU Langone, led the 21-hour operation
Dr Eduardo D Rodriguez, lead surgeon director of the Face Transplant Program at NYU Langone, said: ‘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.’
‘We’ve made one major step forward and have paved the way for the next chapter to restore vision.’
Dr Rodriguez’s team was introduced to Mr James’ injury just two months after the accident, and doctors discussed the possibility of a face transplant with his care team in Texas over the next year.
Mr James’ left eye was removed due to severe pain, which led Dr Rodriguez to consider an eye transplant.
‘Given Aaron needed a face transplant and will be taking immunosuppressive drugs regardless, the risk versus reward ratio of transplanting the eye was very low,’ Dr Rodriguez said.
‘Despite the eye being successfully transplanted, from a cosmetic standpoint, it would still be a remarkable achievement.’
Mr James has been able to return to Arkansas with his wife, Meagan, and daughter, Allie (pictured here)
Mr James (pictured with his wife, Meagan) only spent 17 days in the intensive care unit
Mr James waited just three months for a donor, a man in his 30s. The donor had also provided his kidneys, liver, and pancreas to patients between ages 20 and 70.
‘I’m grateful beyond words for the donor and his family, who have given me a second chance at life during their own time of great difficulty. I hope the family finds solace in knowing that part of the donor lives on with me,’ Mr James said.
In May, Dr Rodriguez and a 140-person team began the 21-hour surgery, which took place in two operating rooms. One team was in the room with Mr James, removing parts of the face meant to be replaced, while another dissected the donor’s face and eyeball.
The main challenge was connecting the eye to the optic nerve, a part of the central nervous system that transmits visual information to the brain, and helping the nerves regenerate over time.
The team did this by combining the donor eye with adult stem cells found in the donor’s bone marrow. These cells were injected into the optic nerve in hopes of helping nerves regenerate and eventually restoring vision.
Dr Samer Al-Homsi, executive director of the Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Center at NYU Langone, said: ‘This is the first attempt of injecting adult stem cells into a human optic nerve during a transplant in the hopes of enhancing nerve regeneration.’
Though Mr James can’t see out of the eye yet, the team said that may be possible in the future.
‘We have now demonstrated that the procedure is safe and potentially efficacious, but we need time to determine if this step plays a role in enhancing the chance of sight restoration and if there’s anything further that can be done in the future to optimize the procedure, Dr Al-Homsi said.
Mr James spent just 17 days in the intensive care unit, one of the shortest recoveries Dr Rodriguez has seen. In July, he was discharged and sent to outpatient rehab.
In September, Mr James was able to return home to Arkansas with his wife, Meagan, and daughter, Allie.
He plans to have dental treatment in the next few months.
Dr Bruce Gelb, transplant surgeon at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute, said: ‘The progress we’ve seen with the eye is exceptional, especially considering that we have a viable cornea paired with a retina showing great blood flow five months after the procedure.’
‘This far exceeds our initial expectations, given our initial hope was that the eye would survive at least 90 days.’
‘We will continue to monitor, and I am excited to see what else we may learn over time.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk