A new retinal implant technique is being trialled at the Oxford Eye Hospital in 2011 for the first time in the UK. Professor Robert MacLaren, Consultant Retinal Surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, is leading a trial to look at new technology that aims to restore sight to blind patients.
By implanting a device underneath their retina (the back of the eye) the trial presents a promising new treatment for patients who are blind from retinitis pigmentosa, a form of inherited retinal degeneration that typically causes severe vision problems in adulthood.
The new implant is a major step forward in retinal implant technology as it imitates the photoreceptor, or light sensitive, cells on the retina (back of the eye). By collecting light the implant can create more detailed images than were previously possible.
The new device is also significantly smaller meaning it can all be contained within the eye, with the power supply located under the skin behind the ear, similar to a hearing aid.
Mr James Ramsden, consultant ENT surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital and a cochlear implant specialist, will also be performing surgery on the power supply. The image capture device contains a 1,500 pixel array which is inserted under the retina and acts like a digital camera, except that the image is transmitted to nerve cells instead of a memory card. The surgeons will be studying how blind patients adapt to the new image from the chip over a period of a year.
Professor MacLaren said, “Electronic devices for restoring sight are now entering the clinical arena and preliminary work with this particular implant is very impressive. I would now certainly consider this technology as a viable treatment option for patients who are blind from retinitis pigmentosa.
This represents a true fusion of electronic technology with the human central nervous system.” The trial will start early in 2011.
Follow this link to find out who is eligible for the clinical trial.