After being blind for over 20 years, a British man is regaining the gift of sight — thanks to a pioneering bionic eye implant.
Chris James is the first British patient to be fitted with a digital chip similar to those used in mobile phone cameras, Sky News reported.
Presently, James can see a rough outline of simple shapes, but doctors believe that in time — as his brain “learns” to see again — he could recognise faces.
“I’ve always had that thought that one day I would be able to see again,” James said. “This is not a cure, but it may put the world into some perspective. It’ll give me some imagery rather than just a black world.”
Surgeons at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and King’s College Hospital in London are testing the implant in a clinical trial of up to 12 patients with retinitis pigmentosa.
Surgeons in Oxford fitted the chip beneath James’ retina in a complex eight-hour operation.
Robert MacLaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford, insisted that the success of the surgery was a “great relief”. “Chris is doing extremely well,” he said.
A second patient has since been fitted with the chip and even he is responding well.
The sensor, designed by the company Retina Implant, is only a 3-mm square and packed with 1,500 pixels.
Light falling on the pixels is converted into an electrical signal that is picked up by nerves and transmitted to the visual processing region of the brain.
Patients are able to see a grainy, black and white image.
And since the chip just covers a small part of the retina, their field of view is limited to a window the size of a CD case held at arm’s length.