Researchers Plan to Install Bionic Eyes in 10 Patients

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The UK’s NHS has announced that it is planning on installing the Argus II Bionic eye in 10 patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) to test its effectiveness in at least partially restoring their sight.

This announcement came alongside a flurry of methods to attempt to cure blindness such as using AI for preventative treatments or sophisticated genetic therapies such to repair genetic defects affecting sight.

Disorder

Retinitis Pigmentosa is a rare genetic disorder, which causes the rods in the retina not to respond properly to light. According to the National Eye Institute, 1 in every 4000 people in the world suffers from this disorder.

In the UK, NHS has announced it will be funding the implantation of the bionic device in 10 RT patients in order to test its effectiveness.

How it Works

The way the Argus II Bionic Eye implant works, is that it works alongside a small camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses the patient wears. Electrodes that are attached to the patients’ retina convert images from the camera into wireless signals. The remaining retinal cells are then stimulated, which transmits the information to the brain. This should restore at least partial sight for the patient.

“This highly innovative NHS-funded procedure shows real promise and could change lives,” said Dr Jonathan Fielden, director of specialized commissioning at NHS England.

The Patients

The patients receiving the bionic eye will be split to two hospitals: The Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital, in order to control for environmental effects on their recovery.

The patients will then be closely monitored for up to a year in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

According to the Guardian, in the UK approximately 16,000 people suffer from RP, and among 160 to 320 are eligible for bionic eye procedure. Despite its low eligibility, this remains to be a major breakthrough for the disorder.