Bionic eye implant helps blind 88-year-old to see again
UK-first procedure involved surgically inserting a 2mm microchip beneath the patient’s retina and fitting them with special video glasses.
An 88-year-old patient who went blind in her left eye has been given back some vision after surgeons from Moorfields Eye Hospital successfully implanted a microchip under her retina.
The unnamed patient is the first in the UK to receive the implant, which is currently undergoing clinical trials across Europe. The technology aims to partially restore vision in people suffering from geographic atrophy – an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that can have devastating effects on vision.
The condition is progressive and affects almost 7 per cent of those over 80. There are currently no effective treatments.
“Losing the sight in my left eye through dry AMD has stopped me from doing the things I love, like gardening, playing indoor bowls and painting with watercolours,” said the recipient.
“I am thrilled to be the first to have this implant, excited at the prospect of enjoying my hobbies again and I truly hope that many others will benefit from this too.”
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The procedure involves surgically inserting a 2mm microchip beneath the centre of a patient’s retina and fitting them with a pair of special video glasses that are connected to a computer they carry on their waistband.
The chip transmits visual data recorded by the glasses to the computer, which uses artificial intelligence algorithms to process it and then instructs the glasses to focus on the main object in the image.
The glasses then transmit this data back to the chip, which converts it into an electrical signal. This signal then passes through the retinal cells and optical cells into the brain, where it is interpreted as if it were natural vision.
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Four to six weeks after the chip is inserted, the patient should be able to see a signal. They then go through a rehabilitation programme to learn how to use their newly restored vision.
“This ground-breaking device offers the hope of restoration of sight to people suffering vision loss due to dry AMD,” said Mahi Muqit, consultant vitreoretinal surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, honorary clinical lecturer at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
“The success of this operation, and the evidence gathered through this clinical study, will provide the evidence to determine the true potential of this treatment.”
Any patients interested in seeing if they fit the criteria for this clinical trial should contact Moorfields Eye Hospital on: email@example.com, or 0207 566 2108.
Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.
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