Electronic retinas restore the vision of two patients with retinitis pigmentosa

03 May 2012

Professor Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, and Mr Tim Jackson, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at King's College Hospital in London, are leading a clinical trial to restore sight using pioneering eye implants.

Two participants in the trial, who lost their sight through retinitis pigmentosa, were able to detect light immediately after an electronic retina was implanted in the back of their eyes, and are now beginning to experience some restoration of useful vision. 10 further patients will be fitted with the device as part of the clinical trial in the UK.

The retinal implants have been developed by Retina Implant of Germany to restore some sight to people with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited eye condition. Retina Implant’s devices are designed to replace the lost cells in the retina. Patients have a small microchip containing 1,500 tiny electronic light detectors implanted below the retina. The optic nerve is able to pick up electronic signals from the microchip and patients can begin to regain some sight once more.

Professor Robert MacLaren said: “What makes this unique is that all functions of the retina are integrated into the chip. It has 1,500 light sensing diodes and small electrodes that stimulate the overlying nerves to create a pixellated image. Apart from a hearing aid-like device behind the ear, you would not know a patient had one implanted.”

Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight added: “Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases of the retina. The news from this pioneering trial that some useful vision can be regained will be extremely welcome to the thousands of people losing their sight or who are living with sight loss due to this devastating eye condition.”

To find out more about the study, please visit http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2012/120503.html

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