04 May 2012

Electronic retinal implants restore ‘useful vision’ to blind patients

The first blind patients to be fitted with electronic eye implants in a UK clinical trial have regained 'useful vision' only weeks after surgery.

Chris James and Robin Millar, who have an inherited form of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa, were said to be able to perceive light and even some shapes just three weeks after the innovative retinal devices were fitted.

The technology relies on a wafer thin 3mm2 microchip consisting of 1,500 tiny electronic light detectors implanted below the retina. The implant works by sending electronic signals from the chip to the optic nerves, which are stimulated by small electrodes to create a pixellated image.

"'What makes this unique is that all functions of the retina are integrated into the chip," explained lead surgeon Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford. "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."

The operation first required implantation of a power supply which was buried under the skin behind the ear in a similar fashion to a cochlear implant. The electronic retina was then inserted into the back of the eye and stitched into position before being connected to the power supply.

Three weeks after the operation, patient Chris James' electronic retina was switched on for the first time. After some initial tuning and testing, he was able to distinguish light against a black background. "As soon as I had this flash in my eye, this confirmed that my optic nerves are functioning properly which is a really promising sign,' he said. 'It was like someone taking a photo with a flashbulb, a pulsating light, I recognised it instantly.'

Prof MacLaren noted: "We are all delighted with these initial results. The vision is different to normal and it requires a different type of brain processing. We hope, however, that the electronic chips will provide independence for many people who are blind from retinitis pigmentosa."

Author
Laura Hopperton

Supporting Information

This material is protected by Findlay Media copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.

Do you have any comments about this article?


Add your comments

Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Related Articles

X-ray detector on plastic

Researchers from Holst Centre and imec have demonstrated the first ever X-ray ...

Sensor market back on track

Emerging markets such as the Internet of Things, wearable electronics and the ...

Electronics dissolve on cue

Researchers at Iowa State University are the latest to shift their focus to the ...

Smart pump for the heart

Around 160,000 people in the EU require heart transplants every year. About 600 ...

Wearable electronics

Problems with the heart can be relatively common but, because they can present ...

Zeno robot smiles back

The autistic spectrum is sometimes, mistakenly, thought of as a gauge on which ...

Using Linux in medical devices

This whitepaper explores the issues that software developers and medical device ...

Adapting to the extremes of rugged design

Ruggedisation and reliability are key requirements for a wide range of embedded ...

The real solution to fake parts

The high tech supply chain is more vulnerable to counterfeit components than ...

High CV X5R MLCC series

AVX has added new capacitance values to its high CV X5R MLCC series for mobile, ...

Modular power supplies

While engineers are increasingly looking to simplify power design, often by ...

Audio receivers from Molex

A new family of balanced armature audio receivers has been introduced by Molex.

Future World Symposium 2014

29th - 30th April 2014, Twickenham Stadium, London

BEEAs 2013

9th October 2014, 8 Northumberland, London

Engineering Materials Live!

22nd-23rd October 2014, Jaguar Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, UK

Self-destructing electronics

Researchers at Iowa State University have created transient electronics that ...

DLP 0.45 WXGA chipset

Learn all about the features and benefits available to developers with the DLP ...

Electronics Design Show 2013

Take a look at some of the highlights from the 2013 Electronics Design Show and ...

Cutting the mustard

In the past ten days, three clients have presented their new designs (an ...

Bionic lenses and rabbits

A Terminator style bionic contact lens has been developed by researchers in a ...

Bullish optoelectronic market

When New Electronics reported the growth of the optoelectronic market in June ...

Gregg Lowe, Freescale

Freescale's new ceo tells Graham Pitcher that, while he's not 'dancing' yet, ...

Rick Clemmer, ceo, NXP

Rick Clemmer believes high performance mixed signal is just one of the sectors ...

Henri Richard, Freescale

Freescale's chief sales and marketing officer tells Graham Pitcher that he's ...