THE FUTURE: THE POSSIBILITY OF EYE TRANSPLANTS MAY BECOME A REALITY

One of the biggest challenges doctors face with transplanting organs is the host’s body rejecting the new organ. That’s one reason people may have to wait a long time for transplants: finding a matching host is difficult. Furthermore, it’s much more challenging to transplant the human eye, so much more that it’s never been done before. But doctors are hopeful that the future of successful eye transplants is around the corner.

Currently, doctors can perform a partial transplant on the eye. These procedures are limited to the surface level of your eye. A cornea transplant is the most common option, followed by the more difficult — but still doable — eyelash transplant and amniotic membrane transplants. A full eye transplant is still beyond our reach, but advancements in technology over the next decade may allow it to happen.

What this means for you is if you are losing your vision, if you go blind, or if you were born blind, you may be eligible for a procedure to completely restore your vision with new eyes.

WHY ARE EYE TRANSPLANTS SO DIFFICULT?

Your eyes are the most sensitive parts of the body. They are filled with more than a million optic nerves. If one of these nerves is cut, it can’t be reconnected, so implanting an entire new eye is impossible. Doctors have no way of reconnecting the severed nerves from the old host’s eyes to the new host’s nervous system. Another challenge is how to connect the blood vessels so as not to pump too much or too little blood to the eye.

And to make matters worse, the eye would have to be transplanted quickly, as the retinal cells cannot survive long once the eye is removed from the original host.

SEEMS INTENSE. HOW CAN DOCTORS BE HOPEFUL EYE TRANSPLANTS WILL EVER BE POSSIBLE?

Right now, nerves can be regrown, though it is enormously difficult to do. However, growing nerves to connect to a new organ has never been done before. Specialists are currently researching methods to make connecting nerves to a new organ possible. This would be the biggest step toward opening the door for eye transplants. The timing of the procedure and the connecting of the blood vessels will still be a challenge, but not as absurdly hard as connecting the nerves.

You may be able to prevent the need for an eye transplant in the future by visiting your optometrist for regular checkups or whenever you experience vision problems. Don’t shrug off your eye health; be proactive so your doctor can help you now. Contact Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

Posted December 22, 2015 by Silverstein Eye Centers