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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Is it possible to transplant optic nerves?

Answered by
Dr. Vivek Chail


Practicing since :2002

Answered : 6671 Questions

Posted on Tue, 25 Aug 2015 in Vision and Eye Disorders
Question: Is it possible for optic nerves to be transplanted from a healthy donor or regenerated? My right eye is almost entirely gone from glaucoma. There is only a tiny area that light is seen and some vision. the right eye as a lot of damage and the retina is very thin and fragile. Is there hope for my vision, now? I want a straight answer and not a vague, no answer.
Answered by Dr. Vivek Chail 44 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Research is promising in the field of vision restoration by nerve grafting

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for writing in to us.

I have read through your query in detail.
Please find my observations below.

1. Transplantation of the optic nerve is a futuristic thought at the moment. However researchers have been trying methods to restore vision following optic nerve damage by using peripheral nerve graft to build a bridge and in the damaged optic pathway and positive results might be expected. This type of research is presently being done on animals and it will still take a few years before any such techniques are used for humans.

2. I have reviewed one such research done in 2010 by a team from Harvard Medical School, XXXXXXX It says that "Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are normally unable to regenerate their axons after optic nerve injury or degenerative disorders, resulting in lifelong visual losses. This situation can be partially reversed by activating RGCs’ intrinsic growth state, maintaining their viability, and counteracting inhibitory signals in the extracellular environment."

4. The above relates to making the retinal ganglion cells active once again and ready to connect the visual input at the eye to the nerve pathway and allow the signals to be processed in the brain. The objective is to make a smooth passage for the light signals entering the eye to seamlessly be processed in the brain. Since the potential subjects have damaged optic nerve therefore the regenerating nerves have to join and connect with the appropriate nerve endings to recreate the optic tract.

5. Regarding the regeneration of nerve endings called axons following peripheral nerve grafting, the research shows that anterograde tracing and electrophysiology show that a small number of axons can regenerate all the way back to the superior colliculus which is a part of the brain where visual signals are processed.

6. Though in the experimental stage, it is proposed that at least some Retinal ganglion cells will be able to regenerate their axons all the way to their central targets in the brain.

7. In conclusion, research in the area of vision restoration following a diseased or injured optic nerve is in progress and has shown positive results to some extent. In your particular case, restoration of vision might not be possible immediately through the above experimental methods but we might set a time limit of a decade for more successful researches to be done and the findings to be replicated on humans as a treatment option.

Hope this answers your question. Please feel free to correct any oversight in my interpretation of your problems and discuss them in detail as per your requirements.

Hope your query is answered.
Do write back if you have any doubts.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar

The User accepted the expert's answer

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