Transplanted cornea in use for record 123 years

OSLO Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:47am EDT

OSLO (Reuters Life!) - Bernt Aune's transplanted cornea has been in use for a record 123 years -- since before the Eiffel Tower was built.

"This is the oldest eye in Norway -- I don't know if it's the oldest in the world," Aune, an 80-year-old Norwegian and former ambulance driver, told Reuters by telephone on Thursday. "But my vision's not great any longer."

He had a cornea transplanted into his right eye in 1958 from the body of an elderly man who was born in June 1885. The operation was carried out at Namsos Hospital, mid-Norway.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this is the oldest living organ in the world," eye doctor Hasan Hasanain at Namsos hospital told the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang.

In the 1950s, doctors expected it to work for just five years, Hasanain said. Such cornea operations date back to the early 20th century and were among the first successful transplants.

"It wasn't unusual to use corneas from elderly people who had died," Aune said.

The oldest person who had documents to prove it was France's Jeanne Calment, who was 122 old when she died in 1997, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

The Eiffel Tower was built from 1887 to 1889. U.S. inventor Thomas Edison patented a film camera for motion pictures in 1888.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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