With organ transplant technology improving all the time, many wonder about eyes. Can you donate a functional eye to someone who is blind? If it were possible, would you be willing to donate?
It is beyond medical science to transplant an entire eye. Why? The part of the eye that senses light and relays vision to the brain is the retina. It is highly specialized neural tissue that does not regenerate.
Peripheral nerves, or those closer to skeletal muscles, have a regenerative ability but nerves close to the brain, or part of the central nervous system, do not. There is no place in the visual system where a doctor can make a “cut” and be able to stitch it onto another person.
One piece of the eye that can be transplanted is the clear cornea that lies in front of the pupil. Organ donation forms that have a box marked “eye” are referring to the cornea.
Researchers working on restoring vision in the blind have turned to bionic eye implants that sense light like the computer chips in digital cameras. There also has been research into devices worn like glasses that feed signals to the brain.
If you have a question concerning your eyes, ask Dr. Picken directly by emailing him at prairie email@example.com.
Dr. Jace Picken is an optometrist at Prairie Vision Center in Wahpeton