A father recovered his eyesight after 25 years after groundbreaking stem cell treatment at the NHS.
James O & # 39; Brien was blinded in his right eye when he was only 18 after acid was thrown in his face in a random attack.
Now 44, he is the first patient on the NHS to undergo a procedure using stem cells from his healthy left eye.
James O & # 39; Brien was blinded in his right eye when he was only 18 after acid was thrown in his face in a random attack
The operation has paved the way for hundreds of other acid victims to restore their eyesight.
Doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, who have been developing the technology for 20 years, hope to be able to operate on one patient every month. Mr. O & Brien, who is married to a six-year-old daughter and son, four, said: "Being able to see with both eyes – it is a small thing that the world means. In principle I went from being able to see almost everything in that eye.
"It is as if I have full vision again, I can see so much more.
"Before I could not even see the ophthalmic card, the card with all the letters on it, now I see the third line down and it will get much better.
Mr O & # 39; Brien, a project manager who lives in Rotherhithe, South East London with his wife Lisa (photo), 40, a communications manager, had the first phase of treatment early last year
"It is a huge bonus to be able to see from both eyes, to see my children from my right eye, I had never seen them from that eye before."
The procedure will be shown tonight at 7.30 pm on BBC1 & # 39; s regional show Inside Out London and from tomorrow on iPlayer.
Mr. O & Brien, a project manager who lives in Rotherhithe, South East London with his wife Lisa, 40, a communications manager, had the first phase of treatment early last year.
Surgeons on Moorfields cut the scar tissue from Mr. O & Brien's right eye and replaced it with the stem cells from the left who had been returned from Italy by that time.
Stem cells are basic cells that can become almost any type of cell in the body. They provide new cells for the body as it grows and replace specialized cells that are damaged or lost.
The procedure involved the removal of stem cells from the healthy left eye of the father of two, which were subsequently cultured for months in a laboratory in Modena, Italy. The company is based here with the NHS contract and the expertise to perform this phase of treatment.
Surgeons at Moorfields then cut the scar tissue from Mr O & Brien's right eye and replaced it with the stem cells from the left who had been returned from Italy by that time.
They then waited about a year for the tissue in the right eye to settle before inserting a cornea – which plays a key role in vision and concentrates light – from a deceased donor.
The procedure involved the removal of stem cells from the healthy left eye of the father of two, which were subsequently cultured for months in a laboratory in Modena, Italy. James O & # 39; Brien pictured with his wife Lisa
Mr O & # 39; Brien said: "We played a game around the dining table and (the children) raised fingers and I told them how much with my right eye. They squeaked with pleasure.
"When I cycle, I can just look over my shoulder and see what traffic is behind me."
"It has also given me more comfort. The surface of the eye was heavily drawn, but they smoothed it out and the eye is much healthier and more comfortable. It is a bit blurry because I still have stitches, but as soon as they come out at the end of this year, I should get an even better view. & # 39;
Sajjad Ahmad, the ophthalmic surgeon who performed the procedure, said: "James – in a rough way – kindly accepted to be the guinea pig for this treatment. Because of what he did, we can now offer it to anyone who needs it.
"This is going to have a huge impact. Many of these patients are young men, so it affects their work, their lives, the people around them. It is not only the vision that falls, it is the pain. & # 39;
Ahmad said he now sees different acid attack victims every week. He hopes to develop the procedure for patients who are blind in both eyes due to acid or degenerative vision loss.
The operation for one eye costs the NHS £ 92,000, including sending the cells to Italy.
Nice, the ration body of the NHS and NHS England, which holds the wallet, have approved the treatment for all eligible patients.
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