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Chinese doctors strive to implant artificial crystal for panda with bad sight
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14:31, February 27, 2009

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Chinese doctors on Friday said they are making efforts to use artificial crystal implantation to help improve eyesight for pandas as they do with humans.

Meng Yong'an, a prestigious Chinese eye surgeon, said on Friday that a follow-up examination of an elderly giant panda Xiaoming proved the cataract removal surgery that he did on Dec. 20 last year successful. He did not implant artificial crystal for the panda during that surgery.

Meng, a consultant for the World Cataract Foundation, has helped more than 30,000 patients regain sight. He said it was the first time for him to carry out a surgery on a panda.

He said despite the successful cataract removal process, his attempt to implant an artificial crystal in Xiaoming's eye failed. The procedure is commonly used to restore sight in humans.

"It seemed pandas need an artificial crystal tailor-made for them. We have contacted a foreign supplier to make the panda lens," said Meng, head of the Xi'an Gucheng Eye Hospital.

He said he has collected necessary data for the anticipating implantation from Xiaoming, but the lens production needs more comprehensive data on panda eyes.

The Shaanxi Research Center of Rare Wild Animal Rescue and Breeding, where Xiaoming lives, said it will carry out eye examinations on all 18 pandas housed in the center this spring to help collect the data for the development of the lens.

Xiaoming, older than 20 years (equal to human aged 60), was the second giant panda to receive the cataract surgery in China. China conducted the world's first cataract surgery on a panda in 2002 in east China's Fuzhou City.

Xiaoming is a male wild panda discovered by farmers in the mountains in Taibai County, Shaanxi, in March 2007. He was weak and blind when he was found and was sent to the center rehabilitation.

Veterinarians discovered that the panda was completely blind in his right eye had a cataract on the left eye.

Ma Qingyi, director of the center, said pandas are near-sighted animals. Forty to sixty percent of wild pandas suffer from cataracts and other eye diseases.

Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals. There are about 1,590 pandas living in China's wild, mostly in Sichuan and the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. As of 2007, there were 239 captive bred giant pandas in the country.

Source: Xinhua

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