Afternoon InquisitionScience

AI: Blue Eyes for Everyone

For the last ten years, Dr. Gregg Homer has been developing a laser eye procedure to turn brown eyes into blue eyes. There is some fascinating science involved, but does it mean that this form of elective cosmetic manipulation is necessary? Is it any different from dying your hair, a piercing, or plastic surgery?

Before the irreversible procedure takes place, a picture of the iris is taken creating a blue print for the laser work. A specific frequency of electromagnetic radiation is applied to the iris. The totality of the procedure lasts approximately 20 seconds, but the results are permanent.

The laser targets melanin, the pigment in the eye responsible for brown color. Melanin is the polymer responsible for giving color to various areas of the body, most commonly the skin. It is not unique to humans, as melanin is present in most animals.

Dr. Homer began testing the procedure in 2004 on animals. After years of acquiring money from investors, he has performed the laser treatment on cadavers and now on live patients. In Mexico, 17 patients who possess very short-sided vision have had the procedure done in exchange for a lens transplant. Side effects can include double vision and glare, but have not been experienced. He is able to closely monitor the results because of his Spanish fluency. On the limited number of patients so far, there has only been success.

The procedure isn’t coming stateside anytime soon, it appears to still be three years away due to the lengthy approval necessary for medical treatments. However, overseas the technology could launch within 18 months.

Afternoon Inquisition Question: Does this differ in anyway from other elective cosmetic modifications? Does this simple procedure allow one to identify with a different race, as eye color is often very specific? Is this particular transformation more troublesome than others? Does it create a good type of diversity?

Jacqueline

Jacqueline, a true Floridian, wandered up to the tundra of Athens, Georgia to receive her PhD in computational quantum chemistry. Returning to her roots, she is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Tampa in the field of computational biochemistry investigating the wonders of penicillin-like drugs. When she is not slaving over the computer, her varied interests include international travel, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, fancy food, (American) football, and Belgian quadrupels. She is also the founder of EligibleReceiver.com, a football blog with an exclusive female writing staff. Check out her sports ramblings there or follow her on Twitter @jhargis9.

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35 Comments

  1. “…but does it mean that this form of cosmetic manipulation is necessary? Is it any different from dying your hair, a piercing, or plastic surgery?”

    I’m aware that it’s not what you intended, but not all plastic surgery is elective in the sense that dyeing one’s hair is. People badly injured in accidents or people who have suffered transsexualism might both need plastic surgery to maintain/attain basic quality of life.

    More on topic, if the procedure is safe, I’m inclined to encourage people to do whatever they like with their own bodies. I definitely can imagine neo-Nazis choosing to have blue eyes, but until something like that happened (and became a significant problem in society) I’d view this operation as a scientific curio.

  2. And I thought that there were contact lenses that did just this. But no, that wasn’t enough.

    I don’t think eye colour is enough to fool people into mistaking your true ethnicity. If that is the desired effect, there are more efficient ways of accomplishing this.

    But I admit, having one green and one grey eye would be kinda cool. Though I’d rarely see it myself (compared to other cosmetic modifications)…

    In short: I don’t think this is a big deal, nor do I think there’s a big market for this.

    1. I don’t know that the majority of people would be trying to “fool” people into thinking they were a different ethnicity. I have a friend who is half Latina, and she wears blue contacts, because she’s always loved the mix of blue eyes with dark hair and an olive complexion (which she has). She was like, “I would totally do this!”

  3. I don’t see any difference between this and other elective “adjustments”, though I also tend to think that most cosmetic surgeries aren’t really solutions to one’s self image problems. But sure, everyone’s free to do whatever they want in this area; if they have the money and it’s what they want to do, it’s no one else’s business.

  4. I can imagine it having potentially creepy implications for race relations. But I think trying to forcibly dissuade people from it would have creepier implications. I think the battle to be fought isn’t ideally in the arena of what elective cosmetic procedures are available, but rather in our cultural standards of beauty.

    Green eyes ftw, anyway. :P

  5. ” For the last ten years, Dr. Gregg Homer has been developing a laser eye procedure to turn brown eyes into blue eyes.”
    REALLY !! 10 years. WOW, I guess he felt it necessary. An unexplored field, a gap min our scientific or surgical enhancement abilities.
    I don’t think Jane Elliot would agree. Who remembers the ” Brown eyes – blue eyes ” lectures?
    http://www.janeelliott.com/lectures.htm

  6. If I may be excused for a little appeal-to-authority and perhaps other abuses of logic yet to be named …

    In a previous incarnation I was a physicist who worked on ophthalmic surgical lasers. The more MDs I worked with, the more I learned to appreciate my average vision and the more terrified I became of ever needing an Ophthalmologist, especially if a laser might be involved. I kid you not … terrified. I am going to have nightmares for some time to come now, having read this story. Allowing anyone near my eyes with a laser, any laser of any wavelength, of any power, short of a dire medical need, ranks among the worst ideas ever in the history of ever.

  7. I personally find the fact that there is a demand for this surgery disturbing. I mean…how does your mind not go straight to Hitler?

    Not that I think it should be banned or anything, but I do deeply resent the ten-year devotion to the idea that brown eyes are inferior and unattractive.

  8. Prediction (if this actually works and is safe), ten years after implementation, the brown eyed people who did not get the procedure will be the “cool” ones. Fads are silly, fads that require permanent change to your body are scary. I’ll keep my pretty hazel eyes as muddy and funky as they are, thank you very much! :)

  9. This appears to be an expensive, pointless, silly procedure which will be done by people whose problems extend well beyond the alteration that this procedure will give them.

    A bit like all other cosmetic surger, really.

    1. A friend of mine would totally do this, but she certainly doesn’t have problems. She just likes blue eyes. She wears blue (and sometimes purple!) contacts. She has olive skin and dark hair and just really likes the contrast. She’s Latina, and blue eyes wouldn’t suddenly make her non-Latina. Besides, plenty of Latina/o people have blue eyes. It’s not that abnormal.

    2. As noted above, it’s pretty creepy when people start making broad, sweeping, negative statements about cosmetic surgery like that. There are MANY circumstances in which it is entirely justified and understandable, and not just a result of someone having “problems”. I really think we should get away from that kind of thinking. Other people’s decisions about their bodies or appearance aren’t ours to judge or shame or police.

  10. I would never do this personally, and I probably wouldn’t think too highly of someone who did, but I have the same attitude toward other forms of elective cosmetic surgery. If someone cares that much about their appearance and really loves blue eyes, then I guess that’s what they should be spending their money on.

    Of course, it’s easy for me to judge, since I’m already gorgeous. ;)

    1. It really bothers me when people judge others on what they do to their own bodies. Why would you think less highly of someone who chooses to get their boobs done? Or split their tongue? Or have some tats? Or straighten their nose? In the grand scheme of things, how does this affect you in any way shape or form, and why does it influence how you think of them? Why not consider their personality and intelligence, instead of what they choose to do to their own body?

      For the record, I’ve never had anything done and don’t plan on it. But I have friends who have and guess what? They are still awesome people.

      1. Actually I didn’t really think about that way, marilove. You’re right that it would be wrong to judge people based purely on getting cosmetic surgery. I actually have no problem with people who think their appearance is important when they’re doing it for themselves or because it’s genuinely what they like.

        What bothers me, and what mindset I was in when I posted originally, is when people get into the mentality that one particular way to look is the best way for everyone. And then they hate their own appearance when it doesn’t conform to that, and thus thinks it’s reasonable to spend lots of money in order to “correct” themselves. I’ve known a number of people like that, and it does bother me.

        Of course you’re absolutely right that I shouldn’t assume anyone getting elective surgery is doing it for that reason.

        1. “that one particular way to look is the best way for everyone.”

          I don’t know that most people really feel that way, though, and if they do, I think it’s important to consider why they feel that way: Societal pressure to look a certain way.

  11. I don’t see this as any different or “worse” than many of the other modifications that people do. I have no tats or piercings, but I know a LOT of people who are really into those sort of things. An acquaintance of mine just split his tongue. A good friend of mine is a piercer and he has tattoos and piercings ALL over his body — including his face and neck. I know people who like to put hooks into their body and hang from the ceiling. Changing brown eyes to blue doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal to me.

    That said, I like my dark hazel eyes. :)

  12. Homer’s comments about blue eyes are actually kinda disturbing:
    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/11/03/doc-says-he-can-change-brown-eyes-to-blue/

    From the above url:
    “The eyes are the windows to the soul, [there’s] this idea that people can actually see into it — a blue eye is not opaque. You can see deeply into it, and a brown eye is very opaque, and I think that there is something meaningful about this idea of having open windows to the soul,” Homer told KTLA.

    Uhh… totally sound professional medical opinion. : \

  13. There is permanent laser hair removal, breast augmentation and reduction, penis enlargement, tattoos, body piercing, tongue splitting, sex changes, etc. I find it baffling that changing eye color would be the thing that bothers anyone.

  14. Neo-Nazis, really? Do you immediately think “Hitler!” every time you see a bleached blonde, too?

    I’ve been dyeing my hair bright purple for 10 years. If I could have it surgically altered to grow in that color instead, I’d do it in a heartbeat. (Though a $5k pricetag would keep me from being an early adopter.) I don’t see this as being all that different, really.

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