Whilst glasses are the obvious option for those who struggle with their eyesight, for people who suffer from total blindness, there have been very few options available, until very recently. A pioneering system called the Iris II, made by Pixium is currently being trialled in a small selection of specialist eye hospitals across Europe, so far four patients have been implanted with the device and ten further have been granted permission to undergo this procedure at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.
The device (pictured below) aims to restore some vision to patients suffering with various conditions, including Usher syndrome, cone-rod dystrophy, choroidremia and retinitis pigmentosa, the most common cause of inherited blindness, affecting around 1.5 million people across the globe.
One patient, 73, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa and has been completely blind for more than 20 years, underwent this pioneering surgery at Moorfield’s eye hospital as part of a clinical trial. Consultant opthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon, Mahj Murqit at Moorfields said the man could now see a difference between light and dark, where he was previously unable to see anything at all.
Whilst it is reported that the patient’s expectations are realistic, it is clear to see he is very pleased to be able to see something. Following his operation, he will undergo a specialist programme of sight re-education, which will aim to give him greater independence, through his regained ability to appreciate outlines and movement.
— Bionic Retina (@neuromodulate) July 25, 2016
Patients with retinitis pigmentosa typically see their eyesight deteriorate in their teenage years and usually suffer complete loss of vision by their 40s. Eyesight worsens steadily owing to the degeneration of the photoreceptors in the retina, causing worsening tunnel vision, until eventually vision is lost completely. The Iris II seeks to replicate the physiological functions of the eyes’ photoreceptors, using a technique called neuromodulation.
A chip is inserted onto the surface of the retina, containing 150 electrodes which fix the ‘broken links’, allowing signals to be sent to the brain via the optic nerve. Alongside the chip, patients wear a headset fitted with an integral camera, that sends images to a small computer, about the size of a smart phone, which is worn on their hip.
Pixium aims to use this product to bring greater mobility to those suffering from vision loss, allowing them to regain light and shape perception. After a training and re-adaptation programme, it is hoped that patients will be able to recognise things such as keyholes and plates, be able to shake hands or grasp a cup. They hope to extend the use of this technology to those suffering from macular degeneration, which causes the loss of central vision and is the most common cause of vision loss in the UK.
Featured Image: Flickr Gorgeous Eyes