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UCLA surgeons recreate part of a human eye

April 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Surgeons at UCLA have recreated part of a human eye with an experimental state-of-the art iris implant.Charles Haverstick, 52, is often called "The Terminator," because in flash photos his right eye shows up as a big red dot.

His iris was completely destroyed during a flag football game 26 years ago.

"As I was running, the ball was coming down and someone coming the other way at full speed put a part of their hand in my eye like a karate chop," said Haverstick.

The iris controls light that comes in and out of the eye. It's the reason why pupils get smaller in sunlight and larger in the dark. Haverstick is extremely sensitive to light and glare.

"So his pupil is actually blown open to the size of his cornea," said UCLA ophthalmologist Dr. Kevin Miller. "It's totally non functional."

In an earlier procedure, surgeons placed an artificial lens in Haverstick's right eye. This made him eligible to receive an experimental state-of-the-art iris implant.

Dr. Miller will be the first to perform this surgery on the West Coast.

Before this, iris implants were flat in color almost mask-like. While this won't open and close like a natural iris, doctors say it does represent a major leap forward in cosmetics.

"These are handpainted by German ladies who paint miniatures," said Dr. Miller."This should look as close to natural as anything that we've ever had before."

Color matching and sizing takes place right on the operating table. The next day after surgery, Haverstick got to take a close look at Dr. Miller's handiwork.

His mother and sister couldn't believe their eyes. It's was a good match. And finally, sunlight and glare will no longer be an issue.

UCLA plans on starting a clinical trial with the new iris implants later this year. Haverstick is just thrilled he's one of the first.

"I feel very lucky," said Dr. Miller.

Instead of red eye in flash photos, he can now show off his baby blues.