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Saturday, October 16, 2010

And Eye(tooth) for an Eye

Sharron "Kay" Thornton is a sixty-one-year-old woman who lives in Mississippi.  Ten years ago she lost her eyesight due to a rare skin disease, called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, that attacked her eyes, damaged her cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye), and left her blind.  She was not eligible for a cornea or an artificial cornea transplant.  Doctors tried a stem cell treatment, but it was unsuccessful.

Last year, she went to see Dr. Victor L. Perez of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.  He decided to try a procedure that was developed in Italy but had never been done in the United States.  It is called modified osteo-odento-keratoprosthesis.

They took out one of her eye teeth, also called canine teeth, and part of the bone above that tooth.  They shaved it down to the proper shape and size and punched a hole in the middle, where an acrylic lens was inserted.  This was implanted into her shoulder for 3 months while they waited for the bone and the lens to fuse. 

The scars from around her cornea were removed and moist cheek tissue was used to cover the eye to rehabilitate it.  When the time was right, the tooth/bone/lens piece was removed from her shoulder and implanted in her eye.  It was carefully aligned with her retina. The bone keeps it from moving out of place. The cheek tissue is still on the eye, but has a hole where the lens pokes out.  She cannot close her eye fully, and the cheek tissue helps to keep it moist.

Here is a graphic from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute that shows what was done.  When the bandages were removed, she had 20/70 vision!  They expect it will get better with time.

The procedure has been performed on 600 people around the world.  Very ingenious.  It seems to work best for people who have been blinded by chemical burns, thermal burns, rare reactions to drugs, and other cases where normal corneal transplants would not work.

There is another video of a man in the UK who was blind for 26 years.  You can go to youtube to watch it.  (7:28 min long)

Now you have heard something interesting.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Paths of Legends

This past week I finished the book That's Not in My American History Book by Thomas Ayres. It was very interesting and had many stories -- some that were familiar and some that were new to me.  Here is one I didn't know.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, was the first president to have an assassination attempt on his life. It happened on January 30th, 1835. President Jackson had just attended a congressional funeral held in the House Chamber of the Capitol. As he exited, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, pointed a pistol at Jackson and fired.  The percussion cap exploded, but the bullet did not discharge.

Jackson moved toward Lawrence and started beating him with his cane. During the ensuing scuffle, Lawrence took another pistol out of his pocket and pulled the trigger. But that gun also misfired. Bystanders joined in, wrestling Lawrence to the ground and disarming him. One of them was Rep. Davy Crockett of Tennessee. (For those of you over a certain age, now is the time to start singing, "Davy, Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier!")

About a hundred years later the Smithsonian Institute examined both of these guns and couldn't find anything wrong that would have made them misfire.

Richard Lawrence was mentally ill. He believed that he was Richard III, rightful heir to the throne of England and that President Jackson was keeping him from it.

The case went to trial. The prosecuting attorney wanted Lawrence to get the death penalty because, he said, any attack on the president of the United States is an attack on the United States. The defense attorney used the reasoning, for the first time in a court of law, that the prisoner should be found not guilty for the reason of insanity.

The jury deliberated for a very short time.  They bought the argument of the defense attorney.  Richard Lawrence spent the rest of his life in mental institutions.  

The prosecuting attorney was very disappointed.  He was the man whom you know as the author of The Star Spangled Banner, written twenty-one years earlier. It was Francis Scott Key.

Now you have heard something interesting.