Microscopy & Microtechniques
Are Eye Transplants Possible?
May 22 2019
Thanks to an exciting new breakthrough from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, eye transplants could soon become a reality. Last year a team of researchers confirmed that after performing eye transplants on four rats, two showed signs of normal blood flow to the retinas. While the removal of optic nerves meant the rats were unable to see using their new eyes, the team assert that successfully establishing blood flow is a major step forward for the ocular surgery sphere.
The next step is fast-tracking research on how to regrow optical nerves, which will play a central role in restoring vision after eye transplants. As well as changing the lives of people who are born blind or lose vision later in life due to eye diseases, transplants could emerge as a popular procedure for patients undergoing facial reconstruction or transplants.
US Department of Defense funds eye transplant research
The University of Colorado isn't the first institution to explore the concept of eye transplants, with a survey published in JAMA Ophthalmology reporting that globally, eye surgeons carry out almost 185,000 cornea transplants every year. While a human eye is yet to be transplanted, experts predict a successfully procedure could be carried out within a decade. In the past the US Department of Defense has funded keynote research projects, citing traumatic eye injuries as one of the most common combat wounds inflicted on American soldiers.
Deciphering the complexities of the human eye
Eyes are incredibly complex, relying on a network of muscles, blood vessels and nerves to relay information to the brain, which then translates data into images. It starts with light passing through the lens and hitting the vitreous humor, a transparent jelly-like substance that cushions the retina. The cornea then focuses images using the eye's internal lens and sends this information to the retina. From here, images are transformed into electrical impulses and delivered to the brain via the optic nerve. Unsurprisingly, removing an eye, transplanting it into another human body and reestablishing the sophisticated connections that support sight is an incredibly difficult procedure.
Next generation laboratory equipment plays a pivotal role in supporting breakthrough research, including the eye transplants being performed at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. For an in-depth look at the complex electron microscope systems being used by research laboratories around the world, don't miss 'Surveying Sites for Electron Microscopes', which introduces the latest technology from internationally renowned optical expert, Zeiss.
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