Bizarre Tooth-To-Eye Surgery Offers Hope For Near-Blind Man

The tooth is connected to the, cheekbone. The cheekbone's connected to the...

05/06/2016 11:06 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Brittany Murphy / Goulburn Post
John Ings will have an operation to have part of his tooth inserted in his eye.

A near-blind man is set to regain sight in a bizarre operation that involves pulling out a tooth, embedding it in his cheek, then implanting it in his eye.

If all goes according to plan, John Ings, 71, will be left with 20/20 vision, and a brilliant story to tell.

"Everybody wants to hear about the operation because it's never been done in Australia," Ings told The Huffington Post Australia.

In the regional city of Goulburn, he's well-known about town, but the retired railway worker said there was one person in particular he'd like to see after the operation.

"My 18-month-old granddaughter," he told HuffPost Australia.

"I want to get a good look at her and watch her grow up.

Brittany Murphy / Goulburn Post
John Ings walking through Goulburn with his cane.

"I've had a good time with the older grandchildren but now I can't really see. I love babysitting more than anything else but with my vision, I can't take on the responsibility."

His specialist doctor Greg Maloney is currently in Germany to watch experts complete the surgery, called osteo-odonto keratoprosthesis, which has successfully been done in Europe for more than a decade.

How osteo-odonto keratoprosthesis works

Teeth contain compatible tissue to replace an eye's cornea, but to make sure it takes, first it needs to be transplanted into the cheek and left until blood flows.

Before being put into the cheek, the tooth and attached bone is drilled into a donut shape.

When ready, it's transplanted into the eye and an artificial lens is fitted. The eye is then closed over with a piece of cheek skin.

Light then flows through the lens and hits the retina at the back of the eye as usual.

Ings' deteriorating eyesight was caused by the herpes simplex virus which attacked his cornea, and he said he first knew something was wrong the week he was made redundant.

"I had 41 years working on the railway and then the so-called voluntary redundancies came up. I was 56 and I couldn't be out of work," Ings said.

"I was heading to Sydney to figure out my financials when my eye started weeping. I think it was the stress that caused a flare up and the virus chewed through my cornea.

"Once you've got the virus, it stays in your nerve endings forever."

Ings surgery will be done next year at Sydney Eye Hospital and he said he wasn't afraid.

"I'm excited," he said. "I've got nothing to lose."

H/T Goulburn Post.

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