Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 16:34 UK

Bionic eye 'blindness cure hope'

An eye
The AMD disease leads to a progressive loss of sight

A 'bionic eye' may hold the key to returning sight to people left blind by a hereditary disease, experts believe.

A team at London's Moorfields Eye Hospital have carried out the treatment on the UK's first patients as part of a clinical study into the therapy.

The artificial eye, connected to a camera on a pair of glasses, has been developed by US firm Second Sight.

It said the technique may be able to restore a basic level of vision, but experts warned it was still early days.

The trial aims to help people who have been made blind through retinitis pigmentosa, a group of inherited eye diseases that affects the retina.

This treatment is very exciting, but it is still early days
David Head, of the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society

The disease progresses over a number of years, normally after people have been diagnosed when they are children.

It is estimated between 20,000 to 25,000 are affected in the UK.

It is not known whether the treatment has helped the two patients - both men in their fifties - to see and any success is only likely to be in the form of light and dark outlines, but doctors are optimistic.

Lyndon da Cruz, the eye surgeon who carried out the operations last week, said the treatment was "exciting".

"The devices were implanted successfully in both patients and they are recovering well from the operations."

Other patients across Europe and the US have also been involved in the trial.

Electronic

The bionic eye, known as Argus II, works via the camera which transmits a wireless signal to an ultra-thin electronic receiver and electrode panel that are implanted in the eye and attached to the retina.

The electrodes stimulate the remaining retinal nerves allowing a signal to be passed along the optic nerve to the brain.

David Head, chief executive of the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society, said: "This treatment is very exciting, but it is still early days.

"There is currently no treatment for patients so this device and research into stem cells therapies offers the best hope."




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