Exploring the Future of Whole Eye Transplants

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Tim Hornick, 35, was shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq in 2004, leaving him with destroyed vision in his left eye and a severely damaged right eye. Tim says, he would be willing to volunteer to receive an eye transplant at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Vijay Gorantla, a reconstructive transplant surgeon who is leading futuristic efforts at the University of Pittsburgh, acknowledges that it will be years before surgeons can attempt whole eye transplants in human patients. Due to the complexities of the eye structure, this procedure has to be tested in animals first, such as rats and pigs. Dr. Kia Washington, a plastic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, has transplanted whole eyes in rats and kept them viable for up to 200 days, however, the group has not yet conducted behavioral tests to assess the vision provided to the rats.

One of the biggest potential challenges with eye transplants, will be the timing of the transplant, as the retina of the donated eye, would die within two to four hours of being separated from its blood supply. Additionally, brain dead donors may not be candidates for whole eye donation for transplant, because the brain damage may have damaged the pathways from the eye to the brain’s visual cortex. This may mean that only those who become organ donors after circulatory determination of death may be able to donate eyes for this type of transplant.

Read more details on potential obstacles and opportunities in the full article
Picture taken from article.


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