Blind World

Surgeons implant tooth in boy's eye to cure blindness.

August 2, 2004.

The Taipei Times,

A rare tooth-in-eye operation has enabled a Thai teenager to see again after six years of blindness, news reports said yesterday.

Luck Pewnual, 19, now reads books and watches football on television after surgeons in Singapore completed a two-part operation implanting parts of a canine tooth into his right eye.

His vision has improved since the second stage was performed in June, well enough for him to legally drive a car.

Several patients from Malaysia, the Philippines and Mauritius in addition to Singaporeans have been lined up for the procedure.

Pewnual's case is believed to be the first carried out in the region, said The Sunday Times. The first stage has been performed on a Singaporean woman.

Pewnual, who was blind from an allergic reaction, said he is "excited and happy" to be able to see his parents and continue studying.

He will have to return for regular follow-up treatment, doctors said.

Associate Professor Donald Dan, deputy director of the eye center, described the procedure as a last-ditch possible solution for people who lose their sight when the corneas, the front part of the eye and the eyelids are badly damaged.

The operations were performed at the Singapore National Eye Centre and National Dental Center, with the first in February.

A canine tooth was extracted with its root and part of the jaw, then fashioned into a cube and a hole drilled into the center, explained Dr. Andrew Tay at the dental center.

A tiny clear plastic cylinder was fitted into the hole to channel light to the retina.

The tooth structure was then inserted into the cheek to grow a new blood supply. The damaged layers of the eyes were scraped off and the inner mucosal lining of the cheek transplanted onto the surface of the eye.

In the second stage, the tooth cube was removed from the cheek and reshaped. The cheek mucosal lining was opened, a hole was cut in the cornea and the cube inserted with the lining put back in place.

The technique was pioneered in Italy and refined in Britain in the last three years.

Copyright 1999-2004 The Taipei Times.

End of article.

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