The first clinical trials of an electronic eye implant designed to restore the sight of blind people have proved successful and “exceeded expectations”, scientists said yesterday.
Eye experts developing the pioneering technology said the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining “useful vision” just weeks after undergoing surgery.
The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.
Retina Implant AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its British trial.
The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed there were also able to locate white objects on a dark background, Retina Implant said.
Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the British trial, which is being led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King’s College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.
They said: “The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations. This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an import step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life.”
The patients will undergo further testing as they adjust to the 3mm by 3mm device in the coming months.
The subretinal implant technology has been in clinical trials for more than six years.
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