November 3, 2011
Controversial Treatment Makes Brown Eyes Blue
A California scientist claims he has developed a simple procedure that can turn brown eyes into blue eyes, but once the procedure is done it is irreversible, CBS News reports.
Dr Gregg Homer, of Stroma Medical in California said his new Lumineyes technology uses a laser tuned to a specific frequency to permanently turn brown eyes blue, by removing the brown pigment, or melanin, from the top layer of the iris, leaving the blue eye color to emerge over the course of a few weeks.
Homer says his Lumineyes treatment could become a permanent alternative to colored contact lenses. The process is permanent because melanin does not grow back and cannot be replaced. Brown eyes, the most common eye color in the world, appear so because of the layer of pigment in front of the eye.
Homer said the permanent procedure takes only about 20 seconds. He told KTLA.com that he is convinced the procedure is safe and does not affect vision in any way.
The idea of using laser light to change eye color makes sense, said Dr Elmer Tu, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Theoretically, it's possible if you go in and laser the eye to release the pigment that causes brown eyes,” he told CBS News.
Tu believes, however, that safety could be an issue. The released pigment “has to go somewhere,” he said. The procedure could cause a potentially blinding condition called pigmentary glaucoma, which is associated with the chronic seepage of melanin into the fluid within the eye.
So why not just wear colored contact lenses like so many people do?
Doug Daniels, CEO of Stroma Medical, told MSNBC.com that “Nineteen million people wear colored contact lenses, but light-colored contacts on dark eyes look unnatural and the wearer can´t see as well.” And colored contact lenses aren´t without risks as well -- they have been known to cause serious infections within the eye.
The Lumineyes treatment would cost around $4,800 and could be available in countries outside the US within 18 months, said Homer. But the Daily Mail reported that clinical trials have yet to be completed.
Homer has spent the better part of the last decade working on the procedure technology and has recently begun some human testing, but is also seeking up to $800,000 to complete the trial phase. He submitted a patent for the laser eye-pigment changer in 2005.
Homer said he has already received thousands of responses from potential clients who are interested in having the procedure done on them.
Daniels admitted he wasn´t so sure about the concept when Homer first told him about it. “I was very skeptical frankly, but I learned a long time ago that all the great ideas start out as blasphemy.”
Eye color is inherited, although brown eyes are dominant across the world; blue eyes are a recessive trait. A blue pigment doesn´t actually exist in nature. Instead, people with blue eyes have a brown pigment at the back of the irises and low concentrations at the front of the irises. This means longer wavelengths of light are absorbed by the dark back of the eye, while shorter wavelengths are scattered.
In 2008 scientists from the University of Copenhagen found that all people with blue eyes were descended from a single ancestor with a blue eye mutation who lived from six to ten thousand years ago. Before then, everyone had brown eyes, according to the study.
The mutation was not then, nor is now, a negative mutation. It works much the same way as other mutations in the human body, such as hair color, baldness, freckles, etc. These mutations do not increase or reduce a human´s chance of survival.
“It simply shows that nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so,” said study authors at the time.