Maintenance of ocular viability is one of the major impediments to successful whole-eye transplantation. This review provides a comprehensive understanding of the current literature to help guide future studies in order to overcome this hurdle. A systematic multistage review of published literature was performed. Three specific questions were addressed: (1) Is recovery of visual function following eye transplantation greater in cold-blooded vertebrates when compared with mammals? (2) Is outer retina function following enucleation and reperfusion improved compared with enucleation alone? (3) Following optic-nerve transection, is there a correlation between retinal ganglion cell (RGC) survival and either time after transection or proximity of the transection to the globe? In a majority of the studies performed in the literature, recovery of visual function can occur after whole-eye transplantation in cold-blooded vertebrates. Following enucleation (and reperfusion), outer retinal function is maintained from 4 to 9 h. RGC survival following optic-nerve transection is inversely related to both the time since transection and the proximity of transection to the globe. Lastly, neurotrophins can increase RGC survival following optic-nerve transection. This review of the literature suggests that the use of a donor eye is feasible for whole-eye transplantation.
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