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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.

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