Hutt vet's cat eyelids from sheep stomach procedure may be world first

BY JIMMY NESS
Last updated 15:56 18/05/2010
Hutt cat Cammy
DAVID MADDOCK

NEW LID: Lining from the gut of a sheep will help stimulate growth of a natural eyelid on Hutt cat Cammy.

Gary Cullen
DAVID MADDOCK
PIONEERING TECHNIQUE: Veterinarian Gary Cullen, who says a surgery 'world first' he has carried out on a local cat will be published for others vets to learn from.

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Lower Hutt's Pet Vet is undertaking a revolutionary surgery this week - using sheep stomach lining to make artificial eyelids for a cat.

The operation will be trialled on Cammy, a one-year-old cat with eyelid agenesis, a common defect that stops animals' eyelids from forming.

Pet Vet will complete the $1400 operation for free. Before the surgery Cammy's eyes were extremely sore and may have had to be removed.

Store owner and veterinarian Gary Cullen worked on Cammy's left eye in November and will complete the surgery on the right eye this week. He said the two-hour operation was a world first.

"I just had an inspiration. As soon as we started the operation it all felt right.

"This is such phenomenal material, the eye will be pretty much normal once it is properly healed."

The stomach lining from the sheep promotes healing by grafting with the cat's skin and working with the feline's biology. It supports the growth of cells and is eventually replaced by natural tissue.

Mr Cullen was asked by a friend from Mesynthes, a company that specialises in artificial body tissue, if Pet Vet had any use for the stomach lining.

Hutt News profiled Lower Hutt-IRL based Mesynthes last year when its founder Brian Ward filed an international patent for a technology that utilises matrix material from the intestinal lining of lambs for a layer that can stimulate tissue regeneration, including in human beings.

The sheep lining had previously been used to repair a wound on a dog suffering from a hernia.

"We already knew the material existed and after the first operation we thought, gosh, what a useful material," Mr Cullen said.

The eye is sewn shut during the three-week healing process. Other techniques often result in hair rubbing on the eye, which can be painful.

Pet Vet owner Murray Mcclure said the surgery could potentially lead to similar operations on other animals.

"I think it's fascinating. The vets were confronted with a problem and have come up with a solution that's really quite revolutionary," he said.

The new eyelid is created by using three different layers. The bottom tier is made from membrane in the inner corner of the eye, stomach lining is then applied and, finally, skin is moved down from above the eye to form the top layer.

Upper Hutt Rescue duty officer Donna Bridger, who cares for abandoned animals, said she adopted Cammy because she had become like one of the family.

"They are all like our kids really.

"I'm a sucker for somebody that needs help and I thought it would be mean to adopt Cammy to another family once she had started living at the shelter."

Once the operation is successful, Pet Vet plans on publishing the new surgery for veterinarians worldwide.

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