The procedure gives hope to patients with geographic atrophy, a form of age-related macular degeneration
"This groundbreaking device offers the hope of restoration of sight to people suffering vision loss due to dry AMD. The success of this operation, and the evidence gathered through this clinical study, will provide the evidence to determine the true potential of this treatment." Mahi Muqit, consultant vitreoretinal surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital
An 88-year old woman has had a microchip inserted in her eye that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to enable her see.
The woman, who is blind in her left eye, is a patient at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and has a form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) known as geographic atrophy (GA).
To carry out the procedure, doctors insert a 2mm wide microchip under the centre of the patient’s retina, by surgically creating a trapdoor into which the chip is posted. The patient uses special glasses that contain a video camera connected to a small computer attached to the waistband.
The chip captures the visual scene projected by the glasses and transmits this to the computer. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms process this information and instruct the glasses to focus on what the algorithms perceive to be the main object in the image. The glasses project this image as an infra-red beam through the eye to the chip, which converts this into an electrical signal. This signal passes through the retinal cells and optical cells into the brain, where it is interpreted as if it were natural vision.
Four-to-six weeks after being inserted, the chip is switched on, and at this stage the patient should be able to see a signal. They then go through a rehabilitation programme to learn how to use the vision they have been given. After this, patients are potentially able to recognise words when they couldn’t before.
The chip is being piloted with patients who have lost their vision in an eye because of GA – a progressive condition that currently has no treatment. It affects 6.7% of people over the age of 80.
The 88-year-old woman, who has seven children and eight grandchildren, is the first UK patient to benefit from this implant. “Losing the sight in my left eye through dry AMD has stopped me from doing the things I love, like gardening, playing indoor bowls and painting with watercolours. I am thrilled to be the first to have this implant, excited at the prospect of enjoying my hobbies again and I truly hope that many others will benefit from this too,” she said.
Mahi Muqit, a consultant vitreoretinal surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “This groundbreaking device offers the hope of restoration of sight to people suffering vision loss due to dry AMD. The success of this operation, and the evidence gathered through this clinical study, will provide the evidence to determine the true potential of this treatment.”