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Bionic Eye Implant Enables Blind UK Woman To Detect Visual Signals

January 24, 2022

An 88-year-old woman has told of her joy at becoming the first patient in the UK to benefit from a groundbreaking bionic eye implant that enabled her to detect signals for the first time since going blind.

The woman from Dagenham suffers from geographic atrophy. The condition is the most common form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects millions of people worldwide and can cause loss of sight.

The breakthrough, which experts say offers hope of restoration of sight to people suffering vision loss because of dry AMD, involves a revolutionary chip that was implanted behind her blind left eye. Hi-tech camera glasses she was given to wear this week captured the scene in front of her before relaying the data to the implant that sent an electrical signal to her brain – just like natural vision.

“Losing the sight in my left eye through dry AMD has stopped me from doing the things I love, like gardening, playing indoor bowls and painting with watercolours,” the unidentified woman said in a statement released by Moorfields eye hospital NHS foundation trust.

“I am thrilled to be the first to have this implant, excited at the prospect of enjoying my hobbies again and I truly hope that many others will benefit from this too.”

She received the Prima System device – developed by Pixium Vision in France – at Moorfields in London as part of a Europe-wide clinical trial backed by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

The implant works by surgically inserting a 2mm-wide microchip under the centre of a patient’s retina. The patient then wears special glasses, containing a video camera that is linked to a small computer attached to their waistband.

The chip captures the video provided by the glasses, and in turn transmits this to the computer, which uses artificial intelligence algorithms to process the data and guide the focus of the glasses.

The glasses then project this image as an infrared beam back through the eye to the chip, which transforms it into an electrical signal that travels back through the retina cells and into the brain. The brain then interprets this signal as if it were natural vision.

Mahi Muqit, consultant vitreoretinal surgeon at Moorfields eye hospital, said: “The success of this operation, and the evidence gathered through this clinical study, will provide the evidence to determine the true potential of this treatment.”

Muqit, who is an honorary clinical lecturer at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and a NIHR research investigator, added: “This groundbreaking device offers the hope of restoration of sight to people suffering vision loss due to dry AMD.”

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