Ophthalmologists invited to join whole eye transplantation research project

The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPAH) has launched a program to restore vision through the transplantation of whole human eyes, according to a speaker at the Hawaiian Eye/Retina 2024 Meeting. Calvin Roberts, MD, program manager for the Transplantation of Human Eye Allografts (THEA) program, described transplanting a human eye as being comparable to “transplanting a piece of brain. The goal for the THEA program is to restore vision for people who are blind through whole eye transplantation by developing new technologies to regrow the nerves from the eye to the brain,” Roberts said.

According to Roberts, the THEA program will focus on three key areas of research to achieve the final goal of whole eye transplantation: retrieval and preservation of donor eyes; optic nerve repair and regeneration; and surgical techniques, immunology and postoperative monitoring. “We’re at the point now where we are looking to find performers, people who can do this work,” he said.

The THEA program has identified multiple strategies to spur nerve regrowth as a part of optic nerve reattachment and repair. These strategies, Roberts explained, include using nerve wraps on the two ends of the optic nerve, promoting nerve growth through electrical stimulation, replacing lost cells with stem-cell derived retinal ganglion cells (RGC) and using neuroprotection to preserve the RGCs. 

Roberts invited ophthalmologists who are interested in getting involved with the project to visit arpa-h.gov for more information. “There’s a lot to be done, and we want you to join us,” he concluded. 


DeFino, Anthony. “Project has moonshot goal of curing blindness through whole eye transplantation.” Healio Ocular Surgery News, January 13, 2024; see source article