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Martin Jones, a 42-year-old builder, was left blind after an accident at work more than a decade ago. But a remarkable operation - which implants part of his tooth in his eye - has pierced his world of darkness. The procedure, performed fewer than 50 times before in Britain, uses the segment of tooth as a holder for a new lens grafted from his skin.

He lost his sight after a tub of white hot aluminium exploded in his face at work in a scrapyard. He suffered 37 per cent burns and had to wear a special body stocking for 23 hours a day. He also had his left eye removed. But surgeons were able to save the right eye, even though he was unable to see through it. At first specialists in Nottingham tried to save his sight using stem cells from a donor but the attempt failed.

It was only when a revolutionary new operation was pioneered at the Sussex Eye Clinic in Brighton that he was given a chance to have his sight back. During the procedure, a minute section of a patient's tooth is removed, reshaped and chiselled through to grip the man-made lens which is then placed in its core. It is implanted under an eyelid where it becomes covered in tissue.

The process requires a living tooth as an implant because doctors suggest there are chances the eye would reject a plastic equivalent. So a canine - which is the best option due to its shape and size - was taken out of Mr Jones' mouth. A patch of skin is then taken from the inside of the cheek and placed in the eye for two months, where it gradually acquires its own blood supply. The tooth segment is finally transplanted into the eye socket. The flap of grafted skin is then partially lifted from the eye and placed over its new sturdy base.

Mr Jones, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was able to see for the first time his wife Gill, 50, whom he had married four years ago.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

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