Prosthetic iris gives man new view of the world

NEW YORK -- When Ilana and Avner Fink were planning their wedding earlier this year, they had to choose a color.

"Well, first I joked that I wanted purple," Ilana told CBS News.

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Avner and Ilana Fink.
CBS News

"Originally, I was thinking blue," Avner added. "Blue its my favorite color."

The color wasn't for napkins or bridesmaids dresses -- but a color for Avner's eyes. That's because he was born without irises, which give eyes their color and regulate the amount of light that enters.

Bright sunlight used to create tremendous glare; so did lights at night.

"When we would walk down the street, especially at night, I know. I could tell that he needed more help from me," Ilana said.

Avner found help at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, where Dr. Brandon Ayres is pioneering a surgical procedure to implant an artificial iris for patients with missing or damaged irises.

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The artificial iris that was implanted in Avner Fink's right eye.
CBS News

"This iris prosthesis finally helps this relatively large subset of patients who prior had no real options," Ayers said. "It's about the size of a Life Saver."

The silicon iris was specially made for Avner.

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Avner Fink, left, speaks with Dr. Brandon Ayres before surgery at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
CBS News

"I'm hoping that it will work and that my life will be better," he said right before the surgery.

This spring, Avner had the surgery on his right eye. By July, he no longer had to use a cane to walk at night and his distance vision had improved.

"He just starts reading road signs to me and I'm like, 'Oh, okay. He's excited he can see the signs,'" Ilana said.

As for the eye color, in the end they didn't go with purple or blue but a lovely shade of hazel.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook