A GOULBURN man could be the first Australian to have a tooth inserted into his eye to fix his increasing blindness.
It sounds like science fiction, but if it all goes to plan, John Ings, 71, will undergo a radical new surgery called Osteo-odonto Keratoprosthesis (OOKP).
OOKP is a unique and complex form of artificial cornea surgery used on patients with the most severe forms of corneal blindness.
It involves removing one of his teeth and cutting a piece of tissue from it, before drilling a hole, inserting a camera into it and implanting the tooth back into his right eye.
The complicated surgical procedure first and foremost requires planting the removed tooth into his cheek and leaving it until blood starts flowing through it.
Surgeons then insert this into the old cornea and some skin is removed from the mouth and placed over the new cornea to seal it.
He will undergo the surgery in a series of four operations, starting early next year.
Mr Ings said his progressive blindness has been caused by herpes simplex.
“My vision has been getting worse over the last 16 years to the point where I can’t see out of my right eye and hardly at all out of the left eye,” Mr Ings said.
“The herpes simplex virus has chewed through the cornea on three separate occasions and it has been patched up with superglue, but now it’s all gone frosted.”
Mr Ings says if he doesn’t have any good teeth left they may use a piece of bone from his hip or skull instead.
“I have been telling my grandkids that they need to look after their teeth because they might have to see through them one day,” he said.
In order to complete the procedure, a couple of eye specialists under the supervision of Dr Greg Maloney are travelling to Germany in July to receive training.
One of the German specialists is then coming back to Australia to supervise the operations.
Mr Ings said the OOKP procedure has been conducted overseas since 2004, but his surgery will be an Australian first.
The surgery should happen early next year at the Sydney Eye Hospital, through the Save Sight Foundation, which Mr Ings said has contributed some funding towards the operation.
He will begin preparation for the first of four stages of the operation in a few weeks time at the facility and is optimistic about the operation and getting his sight back.
“I’m quite excited about it. I will finish up with a pink eye, but if everything goes I will have 20 20 vision in that eye, which is amazing! I am going to try and get my driver’s licence again if it works,” he said.