Transplant of Eye is Impossible ! Truth about Donating Eyes

Have you seen advertisements that convince you to donate eyes ? What if we tell you that transplant of eyes is impossible. You must be thinking how can it be. What are they doing with donated eyes, if they are not fixed in someone else's eye sockets. There are various organizations working around the world to convince people for donating eyes and help someone else to see the world through your eyes. You must have seen the same thing in various movies, where a person on death bed donates eyes and the recipient gets the same eyes (even same color) as the donor, which brings tears in the eyes of audience. If you ask a specialist, then it can never happen. Enough suspense ! Lets tell the truth.

Only Cornea is Transplanted

Cornea is the transparent outer layer of eye, which is transplanted. Cornea is the only part of body which survives without blood supply or blood vessels. It gets oxygen directly from air. Other nutrients reach cornea through the liquid that surrounds it and tears that wipe down our eyes while blinking. This fact of no blood supply makes it easier to be transplanted in any recipient irrespective of blood group, unlike other organ transplants where donor and recipient need to be of same blood group.

More about Cornea Transplant

Cornea has six layers: epithelium, Bowman's layer, stoma, Dua's layer, Descemet's membrane and endothelium. All these six layer work together to focus the image correctly. Most of the blindness occur due to problems in cornea. Here are some facts:

  • While transplanting the cornea, surgeon don't need to cut or join any blood vessels.
  • Cornea transplant don't need any anti-rejection medication.
  • Usually people suffering from conditions like Cancer can't donate organs, but cornea can be donated even by such patients after confirming with doctors.
  • Very first corneal transplant was done in late 1800s and is being done routinely since 1960.
  • Around 44000 corneal transplants are done every year.
  • Artificial corneas are used in 400 to 500 corneal transplants every year.

Why Complete Eye Transplant is Impossible ?

An average Human Eye has got 2 million working parts and each eye is connected to brain through 1 million nerve fibers. These nerve fibers that connect eye to our brain is known as optic nerve, and it is one of the most complex organs to transplant. Even after so much advancement it would not be possible to transplant complete eye in near future.

What do they do with the rest of donated eye, if not transplanted ?

Most of the people think that eye donation means taking complete eye out of the eye socket, which is not true. In most of the cases it is just cornea donation. In such cases only the cornea of the deceased donor is taken by doctors within 4 to 8 hours of death. In very rare cases complete eyes are donated. Even in those cases only the cornea is used for transplant, while the rest of the eye is used for research purpose and training of medical professionals, before they work on live subjects.

Note: Color of eye never changes after corneal transplant, as color of our eye depends on iris which is  not transplanted in such procedures.
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