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It s a first in Texas. A San Antonio woman is seeing more clearly thanks to an amazing eye surgery. She has an artificial iris.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, Sandy Cook has a brand new, manmade shade. When she was two years old, she stabbed herself in the eye with a knife in a freak accident, damaging her iris.

The glare problem impacts her vision. If affects may depth perception, explained Cook, 41. When there isn t an iris, there s an abundance of light. So it s like someone shining a bright light into your eye.

On April 26, 2010, at Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio, Dr. William Sponsel tried something totally new for Cook. It s an experimental iris implant. The replacement iris (the colored part of the eye) is made out of silicone.

In a 45-minute procedure, the doctor cut it to fit her eye and slipped it over the pupil. It s about half the thickness of a dime.

These things are very good, Sponsel said. Even the suppleness and the behavior of the tissue once you get it in is surprisingly similar to natural.

Photos of Cook s normal eye were sent to Germany so the manufacturer could match color and texture, giving the finished product a surprisingly natural look.

We re not just talking about the right base color, but all the little flecks, all the little folds of the iris, explained Sponsel.

This is just amazing, Cook exclaimed. You know, I think the finished product here, you can t really tell except for the fact that the diameter of the pupil is fixed.

The iris implant isn t cheap. It costs $5,000. Right now, it s not FDA approved, but Sponsel expects U.S. eye surgeons will embrace the technology and study it.

The step forward this represents from what we ve had in the past is just enormous, he stated.

The artificial iris may be able to help people with certain birth defects and also blast victims, like many of the soldiers returning from Iraq with eye injuries.
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