Efforts to implant a ‘bionic eye’ using microchip technology have been a success, with a surgical team fitting an electronic retina into a patient in Oxford.
Chris James has had sight partially restored after surgeons were able to fit a tiny chip with 1,500 electronic light detecting diodes just below his retina.
The implant works by sending electronic signals from the chip to the optic nerves, which were stimulated by small electrodes to create a “pixellated image”.
James was able to detect light immediately after the electronic retinas were switched on.
James had suffered from retinitis pigmentosa, a condition which sees light-detecting cells in the retina deteriorate over time. The disease affects around one in every 3,000 people in Europe.
James had began to lose his sight in 1990, eventually becoming almost totally blind.
Now with the device, which looks like a hearing aid placed behind the patient’s ear, James is, incredibly, able to make out objects such as a plate on a table because of the chip implant.
The trial was replicated a few weeks later on a second patient, with similar results.
The implants, developed by German firm Retina Implant, have been going through trials for some time now, and have had some success.
Further operations are now planned on other patients, and while the technology is still clearly in its early stages, it looks promising for enabling more widespread use.