‘I’ve dreamed in colour for the first time in 20 years’: Blind British man can see again after first successful implant of ‘bionic’ eye microchips

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2138775/The-eye-borg-First-successful-implant-bionic-eye-restore-sight-blind.html

  • Microchips restore sight to people suffering retinitis pigmentosa – an incurable condition that leads to blindness
  • Condition affects one in every 3,000-4,000 people
  • Clinical trial with two sufferers ‘exceeds expectations’
  • Sufferers able to detect outlines of objects ‘within days’
  • Vision expected to improve further as 3mm chip ‘beds in’

By Jenny Hope

PUBLISHED: 03:14 EST, 3 May 2012 | UPDATED: 18:17 EST, 3 May 2012

It was the ‘magic moment’ that released Chris James from ten years of blindness.

Doctors switched on a microchip that had been inserted into the back of his eye three weeks earlier.

After a decade of darkness, there was a sudden explosion of bright light – like a flash bulb going off, he says.

Now he is able to make out shapes and light. He hopes his sight – and the way his brain interprets what the microchip is showing it – will carry on improving.

Mr James, 54, is one of two British men who have had their vision partly restored by a pioneering retina implant.

The other, Robin Millar, one of Britain’s most successful music producers, says he has dreamed in colour for the first time.

Both had lost their vision because of a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, where the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye gradually cease to work.

Their stories bring hope to the 20,000 Britons with RP – and to those with other eye conditions such as advanced macular degeneration which affects up to half a million.

Mr James had a ten-hour operation to insert the wafer-thin microchip in the back of his left eye at the Oxford University Eye Hospital six weeks ago. Three weeks later, it was turned on.

Mr James, who lives in Wroughton, Wiltshire, with his wife Janet, said of his ‘magic moment’: ‘I did not know what to expect but I got a flash in the eye, it was like someone taking a photo with a flashbulb and I knew my optic nerve was still working.’

 
 
The chip is 3mm by 3mm, and is implanted into the eyeball of sufferers

The chip is 3mm by 3mm, and is implanted into the eyeball of sufferers

 
The Six Million Dollar Man

The Six Million Dollar Man: A similar ‘bionic’ technology was used to restore sight to the blind, and the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining ‘useful vision’ just weeks after undergoing surgery

 

 
The Wiltshire man can now recognise shapes after becoming the first British patient to be fitted with the digital chip

The Wiltshire man can now recognise shapes after becoming the first British patient to be fitted with the digital chip

Robin Millar from London, one of two men to undergo cutting edge bionic eye treatment

Robin Millar from London, one of two men to undergo cutting edge bionic eye treatment

 

 

 
Enlarge   How the implant works.jpg

The microchip has 1,500 light sensitive pixels which take over the function of the retina’s photoreceptor rods and cones.

One of the first tests was making out a white plate and cup on a black background.

Mr James, who works for Swindon Council, said: ‘It took a while for my brain to adjust to what was in front of me, but I was able to detect the curves and outline of these objects.’

Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King’s College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, who are running the trial, say it has ‘exceeded expectations’ with patients already regaining ‘useful vision’.

 
The first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining ¿useful vision¿ just weeks after undergoing surgery

The first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining ¿useful vision¿ just weeks after undergoing surgery

 

 
The company hopes for a further trial with ten new patients later this year

The company hopes for a further trial with ten new patients later this year

Ten more Britons with RP will be fitted with the implants, which are also being tested in Germany and China. The device, made by Retina Implant AG of Germany, connects to a wireless power supply buried behind the ear. This is connected to an external battery unit via a magnetic disc on the scalp. The user can alter the sensitivity of the device using switches on the unit.

Mr Jackson said: ‘It’s difficult to say how much benefit each patient will get, this pioneering treatment is at an early stage.

‘But it’s an exciting and important step forward. Many of those who receive this treatment have lost their vision for many years. The impact of them seeing again, even if it is not normal vision, can be profound and at times quite moving.’ Mr Millar, 60, who was behind Sade’s Diamond Life album, has been blind for 25 years. He said: ‘Since switching on the device I am able to detect light and distinguish the outlines of objects.

‘I have even dreamt in very vivid colour for the first time in 25 years so a part of my brain which had gone to sleep has woken up! I feel this is incredibly promising and I’m happy to be contributing to this legacy.’

 
The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed there were also able to locate white objects on a dark background, Retina Implant said

The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed there were also able to locate white objects on a dark background, Retina Implant said

 
The chip pairs with an external device to process images

The chip pairs with an external device to process images

 

 
Chris James from Wiltshire, said: 'I've always had that thought that one day I would be able to see again.'

Chris James from Wiltshire, said: ‘I’ve always had that thought that one day I would be able to see again.’

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Posted on May 3, 2012, in Health / Medicine, Science / Technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Amazing technology, we see these huge advancements arriving quicker each day.I do fear for the future when human enhancement becomes the norm and we could end with with a split society.

    • Yes, I agree human enhancements will put into question the public image of a natural human being. It seems the overwhelming majority of people believe man is obsolete when compared to a computer/machine, however in reality man has the potential of being superior to computer/machine especially if man develops his mind, body, and spirit in tune with God. We are creating a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on technology in order to live or survive despite the fact personal computers have been around 35 years, cellphones 24 years, internet 18 years, out of 6,000 years of recorded human history. If mankind was able to live and survive such a long time with out these technological advancements, then so can people today, but it would take a restructuring of society to do so. Mankind would have to re-acclimate itself with the natural environment and learn the agricultural, farming, and hunting techniques that enabled man to survive for thousands of years . The split society that you refer to is the end game of socialism where you will have a world-wide two class society the rich bourgeois and then everyone else, would be the poor working class. The rich bourgeois will end up with having the only access to the latest technological advancements and advanced medical treatments. Despite this being a possible future scenario, I sense the events of bible prophecy will happen and fulfill themselves.

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