Eye implant
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Can you build a bionic body? The eye

Later this year the first eye implant in the UK will take place. A light-sensitive chip will hopefully allow the patient to see with their damaged eye, unlike alternative approaches that use a camera fitted to a pair of glasses.

The light-sensitive chip is attached under the retina at the back of the eye. It converts light into electrical impulses which are then sent to the brain. The patient is then able to interpret the light falling onto the tiny 1,500 pixel implant as recognisable images. The device is powered by a battery fitted behind the ear. The implant costs about £65,000 (US $100,000; 80,000 euros) excluding surgery and maintenance costs.

Clinical trials in Germany have restored sight to some patients who were completely blind due to retinal disease. Miikka Terho, who was once blind due to an incurable inherited condition, was able to read and see basic shapes after the chip was fitted.

Prof Robert MacLaren, will lead the trial at Oxford Eye Hospital, along with Tim Jackson at King's College Hospital. In the video Prof MacLaren demonstrates the Retina Implant.

This video is part of the Bionic Bodies series on the BBC News website, where we will be looking at how bionics can transform people's lives. We will meet a woman deciding whether to have her hand cut off for a bionic replacement and analyse the potential to take the technology even further, enhancing the body to superhuman levels.

  • 02 Mar 2012
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