NHS to Install "Bionic Eye" in 10 Blind Patients

By Gary Cutlack on at

10 people are about to benefit from an incredibly futuristic and potentially life-changing treatment on the NHS -- the installation of a retinal implant that could bring back a degree of sight to the blind. The only downside is people might think it's a Google Glass.

Describing the system as a bionic eye really isn't too far from the truth, either. The Argus II retinal implant teams a camera in a pair of glasses to a processor housed in a wearable bag, which then feed the interpreted results straight into the optic nerve of the subjects, bypassing the damaged natural photoreceptors. It's not exactly bringing full sight back, though, not in this version at least.

Patients can expect to see flashes and patterns of light beamed into their heads, patterns which they need to learn to interpret, as they'll be presented with an ultra low res version of the world. The system has already been installed into some people, who say they're now able to make out shapes, see lights and track the movement of others, which is quite a revolutionary change for anyone currently living without any sight at all.

Professor Paulo Stanga from Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, who conducted the early trials, said: "I'm delighted that our pioneering research has provided the evidence to support NHS England’s decision to fund the bionic eye for the first time for patients. It surpassed all of our expectations when we realised that one of the RP patients in Manchester using the bionic eye could identify large letters for the first time in his adult life." [NHS via Guardian]

Image credit: YouTube

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