Bionic eye implant for 80-year-old man

LONDON • British scientists have implanted a bionic eye on an 80-year-old man a decade after he lost his central vision due to dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - the most common cause of sight loss.

Mr Ray Flynn was the first bionic eye recipient with the condition that affects millions of people around the world.

He had retained limited peripheral vision as his eyesight deteriorated after he was diagnosed with AMD eight years ago.

Now, his central vision is back, thanks to the device that converts video images captured by a miniature camera housed in his glasses into a series of small electrical pulses, which are transmitted wirelessly to electrodes in a chip on the surface of his retina.

These pulses stimulate the retina's remaining cells, resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain, said The Guardian newspaper. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns to regain some visual function.

Surgeons at Manchester's Royal Eye Hospital implanted the chip at the back of Mr Flynn's eye in a four-hour procedure last month.

Surgeons at Manchester's Royal Eye Hospital implanted the chip at the back of Mr Flynn's eye in a four-hour procedure last month.

The lead surgeon, Professor Paulo Stanga, told the BBC: "We are very excited by this trial and hope that this technology might help people, including children with other forms of sight loss."

AMD is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world, with between 20 million and 25 million sufferers around the world.

The retired engineer is believed to be the first person to have the use of combined natural and artificial sight.

The Guardian says the avid football fan is now looking forward to a clearer view of his beloved Manchester United on television and the ability to read recipes without the use of a magnifying glass.

Until now, he could watch television only by sitting in a certain position and looking from the corner of his eye, which made following football impossible.

The Daily Mail said Mr Flynn can now make out shapes even when his eyes are closed - proof that the system is working.

The BBC said four more patients with dry AMD will receive the implant at the Manchester hospital, as part of a clinical trial.

The United States-made Argus II implant costs about £150,000 (S$318,000) including treatment costs, although the patients on the trial will be treated free of charge, said the BBC.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Bionic eye implant for 80-year-old man'. Print Edition | Subscribe