The One Eye Want

Photo from Flickr Images

Blue eyes are frequently found in nationalities located near the Baltic sea in northern Europe, and uncommon in places in Asia. Photo from Flickr Images.

Sabrina Shah

Do you yourself have dark brown eyes? Have you ever wished to have vibrant-colored irises? Have you ever invested in colored contacts? Imagine being able to have the bright blue colored lenses you’ve always wanted, permanently. Only about 8 percent of the human population has blue eyes. What if you could be one of that 8 percent?

The idea of cosmetic eye color alteration procedures that was once only seen in sci-fi films and novels is now a reality. With the latest technology, labs in California and India are permanently changing people’s eye color with great rates of success and ease.

The initial discovery of the ability to change one’s eye color was a result of a scientific fluke. It started in 2007 when a glaucoma patient, a 56-year-old Caucasian man, was undergoing experimental treatments. After doctors used a laser procedure in hopes of curing the man’s glaucoma, they discovered his eyes had changed in hue to a bright blue color —an unexpected side effect.

Upon the realization that the eye color change did no damage to the man’s iris after long-term observation, and that it resulted in an aesthetic change, scientist started research and development to create a similar surgery to use for cosmetic purposes to offer to the general public.

Under every brown eye is a blue eye. A Californian lab, STROMA, developed a technique of eye color change on this very idea. Scientists in this lab have created a non-invasive laser method that is pointed at a specific spot in the iris, the “sweet spot”, that causes gradual pigment-tissue degeneration over the course of a few weeks that eventually reveals the blue hue that is present under every brown eye.

This operation has occurred so far only in California and clinical trials have been done on 20 individuals in one eye each to see the success rates and possible long term side effects. So far the operation has yielded great success and no issues have come up however, one known flaw is that the procedure only works to turn brown eyes blue, and furthermore, the blue hue varies in shade depending on the individual’s own base blue eye pigment.

This surgery is not yet available to the general public however, the lab offers an application process to be a participant in their trials; participants are able to get the operation done in one eye and they must attend follow-up consultations to see the effectiveness and potential side effects of the surgery before the lab is able to release the procedure for public consumption.

A different technique in its trial stages is a permanent implantation of a colored lens over the iris. The procedure, so far, has only had one trial performed on a New Zealand woman; the surgery took place in a lab in India.

This procedure is invasive as it requires a physical cut and insertion of a lens over the iris however, it is more manipulable; surgeons are able to change any base eye color to any other desired eye color, much like colored contact lenses do. During the procedure, doctors implant a colored artificial lens over the person’s natural eye color. The color change is immediate much like colored contacts but without the hassle of having to remove the contacts on a nightly basis.

No negative side affects have been noted by the New Zealand participant thus far, and the surgery was successful in altering her brown eyes to her desired shade of bright teal blue. Further observation is being carried out in order to ensure the safety and permanence of the implants. Surgeons want to ensure that the lenses will not need to be replaced and that they do not have issues with movement within the eye, years after the procedure. This lab did not offer any opportunity to register as an experimental participant, and is only observing the one known participant so far. It is not yet offered on the market to the masses.

The implications of these two surgeries are potentially monumental.

The lens implantation surgery can be used for people who are afflicted with genetic diseases such as albinism, birth defects that cause a lack of iris pigmentation, and other individuals who lack color in their irises for unexplained biological reasons, since the surgery is able to change any one eye color to another. With the implantation method, people who lack pigment in the iris will be able to get any color lenses implanted over their own colorless lenses.

Both procedures, STROMA and lens implantation, can also be used on people who just do not like their dark eyes and want an everlasting eye color change. Imagine plastic surgery/body modification for the eye balls.

This new technology may be the very future of body modification for people around the world. Although it is not available in the market yet, once it is tried and tested by experimenters and health agencies, eye color alteration may become the next big obsession in first world nations that strive to attain physical beauty.

Since only about 8 percent of the population has blue eyes, colored eyes are vied for by people in places where blue eyes are uncommon, like Asia where the colored contacts industry is particularly booming. Marketing for these procedures will most likely take place in regions with high frequency of brown eyes (55 percent of the population of the world currently, has brown eyes). These procedures will likely decrease that statistic dramatically.

After these surgeries become established procedures, what body part do you think will be up for modification next?

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