London: In a world-first, a bionic eye has been implanted to restore central vision in an 80-year-old British man suffering from advanced dry age related macular degeneration (AMD).
Professor Paulo Stanga at the University of Manchester led the four hour operation on pensioner Ray Flynn at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.
Flynn has age related macular degeneration, the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world.
The condition is not painful but it means that central vision is impaired resulting in people being unable to read or drive and having difficulty recognising faces.
The condition left Flynn unable to watch his beloved Manchester United on television or do gardening.
Flynn was fitted with the device, which converts video images from a miniature camera installed in his glasses, in June and it was activated on July 1.
The Argus II implant, manufactured by the US firm Second Sight, has already been used to restore some vision to patients who are blind due to a rare condition known as retinitis pigmentosa.
The operation is the first time it has been implanted in a patient with AMD.
Stanga said he was delighted with the results.
“Mr Flynn’s progress is truly remarkable. He is seeing the outline of people and objects very effectively,” said Stanga.
“The dry form of AMD is a common, but untreatable condition. In the western world, it is the leading cause of sight loss,” he said.
The technology works by turning the images captured by the camera into small electrical pulses. These are transmitted wirelessly to electrodes on the retina surface where they stimulate the remaining cells and replicate the patterns of light for the brain.
Over time Flynn will learn to interpret these patterns and regain vision.
“This technology is revolutionary and changes patients’ lives – restoring some functional vision and helping them to live more independently,” said Stanga, who works in the University’s Institute of Human Development as Professor of Opthalmology & Retinal Regeneration.
“As far as I am concerned, the first results of the trial are a total success, and I look forward to treating more dry AMD patients,” he said.