Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Bionic eye to get long-term trial in Oxford

Retinal implant
The implant is fitted in the patient's skull and is connected to the retina

Scientists at Oxford University have announced the first long-term trial of a new eye implant.

Six patients will get the retinal implant for 12 months. Previous UK trials were limited to three months.

The technology consists of electrodes that replace the retina at the back of the eye and can treat the degenerative disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

It is thought 200,000 people worldwide have RP. The trial will start at the John Radcliffe hospital from May.

Professor Robert MacLaren, Oxford University Nuffield Laboratory of Opthalmology, will lead the trial.

He said: "Recent work ... is very impressive indeed and I would now certainly consider this technology as a viable treatment option for patients blind from RP."

He said the implant was as major a breakthrough as cochlear implants were for the deaf.

It allows patients to see in black and white giving them the potential to read again.

Previously they could only see light and shade.

After being fitted, the implant can be removed, meaning it can be upgraded.

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