Eye Implant Trial to Feature on BBC

05 January 16

written by:

Carol Bewick

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Professor Robert MacLaren leads RP trial in Oxford

A clinical trial at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital looking at using an implant to help restore sight to people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is being featured in a BBC programme this week.

The first patient in the trial, 49-year-old Rhian Lewis, from Cardiff will be interviewed on BBC2’s ‘Trust Me I’m a Doctor’ at 8pm on Wednesday 6 January.

Ms Lewis will outline her experience during the trial and the difference the implant has made to her vision.

RP is an inherited retinal condition which destroys the light sensitive cells over a number of years first affecting your night vision. The amount of sight lost and the speed at which it is lost varies but it can eventually make you completely blind.

This trial at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, led by Professor Robert MacLaren, is one of a number of research projects worldwide examining what has become widely known as a bionic eye. The implanted device replaces the light-sensitive retinal cells in the eye, and is connected to a tiny computer that sits underneath the skin behind the ear.

When the implant is switched on using a magnetic coil applied to the skin, signals travel to the optic nerve and then to the brain.

Although the chip has the resolution power of less than 1% of one megapixel, which is not much even compared to a standard phone camera, it has the advantage of being connected to the human brain. Using dials on a small wireless power supply held in the hand, the user can adjust the sensitivity, contrast and frequency to obtain the best possible signal for different conditions as she continues to practise interpreting the signals and regaining independence.

Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight said: “We have been watching the research using artificial implants with interest over the last few years. Stories like this are encouraging and we are optimistic that limited vision may be made possible from devices like this one in the coming years.”

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