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Blind men have part of vision restored

4th May 2012

Pioneering surgery to partially restore the sight of two British men has been carried out at UK hospitals.

Eye2

The patients, who were totally, are now able to perceive light and some shapes after the surgery to fit eye implants behind the retina.

The trial is being carried out at the Oxford Eye Hospital and King's College Hospital in London and led by Professor Robert MacLaren and Mr Tim Jackson.

The two patients - Chris James and Robin Millar - lost their vision through retinitis pigmentosa, where the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye gradually cease to function.

The implant that has helped them regain some vision is a 3mm square microelectronic chip with 1,500 light-sensitive pixels which take over the function of the photoreceptor rods and cones and is placed behind the retina from where a fine cable runs to a control unit under the skin behind the ear.

When light enters the eye and reaches the chip it stimulates the pixels, which sends electronic signals to the optic nerve and from there to the brain.

Prof MacLaren said: “It’s the first time that British patients who were completely blind have been able to see something. In previous studies of restorative vision involving stem cells and other treatments, patients always had some residual sight.

“Here the patients had no light perception at all but the implant reactivated their retina after more than a decade.”

Eye surgeon Mr Jackson said the treatment was at an early stage of development, but this was an “important and exciting step forward.”

 

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