In medicine they are always looking for ways to “fix things.” We have over the years extended the time we are expected to live by decades. We have done that through research and discovery as well as experimentation. The problem with living longer is that it gives us more time for our bodies to break down. That is why research teams are always looking for more answers to our problems. One of the more recent ideas that have been brought up is that of transplanting the eye of an animal in to that of a human. In considering that the research teams have also considered the possibility of giving night vision to humans.
Can that be done? Better yet can that be done effectively?
One of the exciting parts in considering eye implantation is that animals can see better in the dark and human beings can see very little in the dark. The idea of using an animal’s eye for someone who has little or no eyesight is very exciting. Just think what gift could be given them. The question is will it work and what is the downside? It would be important that we consider the effect on the animals as well.
Sadly, it will probably not work. The reason has to do in part with the way the papetlucidum is attached to the animal. In some animals like the alligator the papetlucidum integrates in to the retina and therefore would not be able to be used. However there are some other animals in which the papetlucidum could be used such as a dog.
Still, there are three problems. The first problem is that animals are not voluntary donors. Most of us who disagree with non-adult stem cell research would disagree with killing or partially blinding animals willy-nilly for giving people night vision.
Next there would be a problem with the blood flow because the retinal blood flow in a human is different than an animal. There are also other problems such as light refraction in an animal’s eye and a human’s eye. Finally based on other animal-human physical interactions the rate of rejection would be high.
Certainly this would be a procedure that could be pursued for giving vision to a blind person but not just to give “night vision.” While it is not an option at this time it is interesting to consider maybe sometime in the near future that there will be treatment for those who are losing or have lost their eyesight.
“Could transplanting part of an animal’s eye in to a human improve the human night vision”? Article “Ask a Scientist HHMI Bulletin from Feb 2010