Bionic eye gives sight to the blind
Bionic eye gives sight to the blind

For the first time ever reallife trials have shown that sight can be restored to the totally blind thanks to an electronic retina

Chris James and Robin Millar were both able to detect light immediately after their operations and are now beginning to regain useful vision Their operations were carried out at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and Kings College Hospital in London

The bionic eyes were developed by Germanys Retina Implant which two years ago trialled them in a laboratory setting The new recipients though have a portable device that can be worn in daytoday life Its being tested in Germany and China too

James and Millar suffer from retinitis pigmentosa an inherited condition that affects around one in every 30004000 people in Europe Its a progressive disease with lightdetecting cells in the retina deteriorating over time

But the new chip aims to replace the lost cells in the retina with 1500 tiny electronic light detectors Its implanted below the retina and delivers electronic signals to the optic nerve and thence the brain Its attached to a small control device that sits behind the ear

quotWhat makes this unique is that all functions of the retina are integrated into the chip It has 1500 light sensing diodes and small electrodes that stimulate the overlying nerves to create a pixellated imagequot says Robert MacLaren professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford who led tyhe surgical

quotApart from a hearing aidlike device behind the ear you would not know a patient had one implantedquot

Chris James 54 was left completely blind in his left eye in 2003 after years of deteriorating eyesight His right retained the ability to detect strong lights

But with the new implant in his left eye hes now able to recognise a plate on a table and other basic shapes and his vision is continuing to improve

quotIm still getting used to the feedback the chip provides and it will take some time to make sense of thisquot he says

The electronic retina could become a standard treatment for patients with retinitis pigmentosa says Professor Maclaren

But he warns quotThe device is not suitable at present for agerelated macular degeneration but advanced cases may benefit from it in future It is not suitable for diseases that affect the optic nerve such as glaucomaquot

Date : 04 May, 2012
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