Surgery gives sight a chance

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The Independent Online
DOCTORS YESTERDAY performed the first stage of an operation to grow part of a human eye inside a patient's cheek. It is hoped the surgery, which has never been tried in Britain, will restore the sight of 76-year-old Cecil Creed from the Wirral in Merseyside.

During the operation, at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre, surgeons placed two tiny plastic lenses inside Mr Creed's cheek. Over the next six weeks it is hoped his own cells will grow around the lenses before they are removed and one is inserted into his eye.

Mr Creed lost his sight in a chemical accident when he was a child. One eye was damaged beyond repair and he has had three cornea transplants on the other, but they have all failed. "Each time I had a cornea transplant I could see so well for a while," he said.

While there are some risks to the operation, Mr Creed said he has nothing to lose since without the operation he will never see again. "I know this is my last chance," he said.

The lenses used in the new technique, developed in Italy by Dr Stephano Pintucci, are made of plastic with a collar of special fabric, called Dacron, around them.

The fabric, unlike tissue from, donors, is inert and Mr Creed's cells will grow onto it while the lens is buried in his cheek. Professor Harminder Dua, who helped perform the surgery, said that once the Dacron is "colonised" with cells it is removed from the host.

"We then bore a hole in the centre of Mr Creed's eye to fit the lens." The collar of Dacron grows into the surrounding eye naturally and is not rejected.

Dr Pintucci was at QMC to demonstrate the operation to Professor Dua, who will carry out future operations. He said: "It is a case of see one, do one, teach one."