First Human Eyeball Transplant Accomplished

Eye specialists at New York University Langone Health have announced success with the first transplantation of a complete human eyeball. High-voltage lineman Aaron James, 46, lost his eye in an electrocution accident on June 10, 2021. His multiple surgeries included a partial face transplant, during which the surgeons decided to also replace his eye.

This has never been done before in a human, due mostly to the high health risks and the difficulty with regenerating a damaged optic nerve. But in February 2023 a highly-trained medical team transplanted a donor eyeball along with injections of adult stem cells from the donor to help regrow the optic nerve cells. After 21 hours of surgery, 17 days of recovery, and over 6 months of therapy, James’ new eye appears healthy, but has not yet regained sight. Signs of perceiving light and transmitting signals by the retina, however, have been indicated.

It may be months or years, or perhaps never, before vision is restored in James’ eye, but this is an historic medical event  that may lead to eventual accomplishment of that most sought-after goal of ophthalmic science.