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News / February 28, 2008

Tooth transplant restores vision

by Guy Hiscott

Robert McNichol, 57, from County Sligo has had his sight partially restored after doctors inserted his son’s tooth in his eye.

Doctors at University College Hospital Galway said there was nothing more they could do for Mr McNichol after he lost his sight in an explosion two years ago. However, he found out about a cutting-edge operation called Osteo-Odonto-Keratoprosthesis (OOKP) being performed by Dr Christopher Liu at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, England.

Mr McNichol’s son Robert Jnr, 23, donated a tooth, its root and part of the jaw when he heard about the groundbreaking procedure. The tooth was removed, chiselled through and a lens placed in its core. It was then inserted into Mr Nichol’s right eye after a series of operations.

OOKP is usually used for patients deemed unsuitable for a corneal transplant and involves a tooth (usually a canine) being reshaped to grip a tiny lens. The whole unit is then stitched into place behind a skin graft over the eye. A tooth is used because the eye would reject a plastic equivalent.

The technique was pioneered in Italy in the 1960s and involves creating a support for an artificial cornea from the patient’s own tooth and the surrounding bone.

After months of operations at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, Mr McNichol’s sight was finally restored in his right eye. However, doctors said they could not replicate the procedure on his left eye as it was too badly damaged.