Tooth-in-eye implant to help blind teenager see

DOCTORS here will implant part of a tooth into one of the eyes of a blind Thai teenager to help him see. 

The 19-year-old will be the first person here to benefit from the revolutionary technique, which will allow him to see almost immediately. 

The complex procedure, which has to be performed by both eye and dental surgeons, involves transferring to the eye the root of a tooth and part of the bone and ligament surrounding it. A canine is used as it has a single root. 

The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), together with the National Dental Centre, are the only ones in the region offering the difficult and tedious procedure. 

SNEC’s Associate Prof Donald Tan called it a “last ditch” attempt for those who lose their sight when their corneas are damaged. 

Someone who is blind because of damage to his optic nerve or retina at the back of the eye cannot be helped with this procedure. 

The technique was pioneered in Italy about 40 years ago, but most attempts in the first three decades failed. 

In the last three years though, the procedure has been improved tremendously by surgeons in Britain, who reported 100% success with 16 people. 

Only surgeons in these two countries and Germany have attempted the procedure. Singapore could be the fourth.  

Prof Tan, fellow eye specialist Julian Theng, and dental specialist Andrew Tay studied the technique a year ago in Britain. 

They have about 20 people on the waiting list for the operation, most of them from the region. The team has decided to start with the Thai teenager because he promises the best chance of success.  

He lost his sight a few years ago from a rare ailment known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome.  

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