Professors at the University of Oxford have designed a brand new microscope to help surgeons perform eye surgery on their patients. Although this special microscope is only being used in trials right now, doctors are hopeful this technology can help people around the world with a wide variety of blindness inducing eye diseases.
A current trial going on at Oxford University includes 30 patients who have the rare eye disease choroidermia (CHM). CHM is a genetic disease that affects the X-chromosome in a patient, and it typically strikes young men. If left unchecked, CHM can lead to permanent blindness. It is estimated that 1 in 50,000 have CHM.
Doctors involved in this Phase II trial want to use the microscope to help them inject a healthy genetic code into the patient's retinae. The clarity that this new microscope offers surgeons helps them see a person's retinae and, thus, increases the success rate of their surgical procedures.
So, what makes this microscope so special? Professor Robert MacLaren, who is a leading ophthalmology researcher at Oxford, said that the best feature of this microscope is its optical coherence tomography capabilities.
Use of this microscope in previous trials showed great results. For example, Paul McGuire, the very first man to undergo surgery from a doctor using this microscope, said his eyesight has only gotten better since his surgery. McGuire, 45, was diagnosed with CHM four years ago and had surgery on his eyes in September of this year.
McGuire said before his surgery he experienced horrid peripheral and night vision. He didn't bring this up with his eye doctor in Essex for years because he just thought he was clumsy. It wasn't until Mr. McGuire felt he had an infection in his eyes that his eye doctor detected CHM.
Following his diagnosis, McGuire was informed of the trial studies going on at the University of Oxford. McGuire was very interested in taking part in this study, and he has been grateful for the work done in Oxford ever since his own successful operation.
McGuire told reporters that he "experienced first-hand the benefits of technology and the importance of eye research." He also said he will continue to raise awareness and funds for the organization Fight for Sight.
Plus, even before McGuire's successful trial, doctors who used this microscope in early-stage trials reported successful results. Oxford professors hope this latest Phase II trial will produce more positive results.
After these tests on CHM, doctors want to use this microscope to perform surgery on more common diseases like retinitis pigmentosa. This disease, which can lead to blindness if undetected, affects 1 in 4,000 people right now.
Just a few of the many groups giving donations towards the development of this microscope include Tommy Salisbury Choroideremia Fund at Fight for Sight, the Choroideremia Research Foundation USA, and the National Eye Research Centre. Members of these organizations are hopeful that this microscope can one day help surgeons around the world make CHM a thing of the past.