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Surgeon pioneers cornea technique

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Tappin says his "tencell" technique is a world first.

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A British eye surgeon says he has come up with a technique that he believes will revolutionize the way cornea transplants are carried out.

Consultant ophthalmologist Michael Tappin, of St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey in Surrey, said the revolutionary new operating technique, called "tencell," or true endothelial cell, is a world first.

Traditional corneal transplants are carried out on patients whose corneas have become diseased, often clouding the vision and causing blindness. The cornea is sliced off the top of a patient's eye and a healthy one, cut from a donor, is stitched on to replace it.

Post-operative distortion of the eye's shape, resulting in blurred vision, and rejection of the new cornea are common.

Even in successful cases, patients often have to wait many months for an eye to settle and for their sight to improve.

Tappin told Britain's Press Association his tencell technique involves scraping off a layer of cells, usually diseased endothelial cells, in patients with endothelial dystrophy (clouded vision). These cells form the innermost layer of a patient's cornea.

By peeling off that layer only, rather than removing the bulk of the cornea, it is only the diseased part of it that is taken out, requiring only a small incision in the eye, Tappin told PA.

Healthy endothelial cells, from a donor, then replace those removed from the patient's cornea.

Standard recovery times are counted in weeks rather than months, Tappin said.

In cases where the cornea is more seriously damaged, grafts will still be required but Tappin said he believed his new method will replace grafts in cases where endothelial cells have failed.

"The main benefit to tencell treatment is that the eye is left in its original shape," Tappin told PA.

"Vision can recover in a few weeks. It's a nicer, neater technique which leads to a far faster recovery and better outcomes."

He added: "This particular technique is a world first. I'm the only one doing this at the moment."

A further benefit to the new surgical technique is that the donor bodies will no longer be visibly defaced by the removal of their eyes, Tappin said.

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