A microchip developed by scientists has restored the sight of nine blind people suffering from a degenerative disease after it was inserted into their eyes. The implant, named the Alpha-IMS, is placed under the retina, the inner lining of the eye. The device essentially replaces degenerated light-sensitive rod and cone cells of patients born with the hereditary condition retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
The implant is only about 3 millimeters long by 3 millimeters wide, and less than 100 microns thick, making it thinner than the average diameter of a human hair. Despite its tiny size, the microchip is loaded with 1,500 light detectors, which transmit electrical impulses through a patient’s nerves to generate a colorless 1,500-pixel image. In contrast, other visual implants provide images with significantly less than 100 pixels.
A wire trails from inside the eye to its edge and then under the skin to a point behind the ear, where patients can place a control box to wirelessly supply power. Patients can also use the control box to adjust the brightness and contrast of images.
To the patients themselves, the difference was often dramatic. They reported being able to see people again, objects in a room, food on their plate, colleagues at work and of being able to recognize faces and smiles. The 3mm chip may provide the 15 million people left blinded by the disease a means of partially restoring their vision.
- Retinal eye implant
- The implant is placed under the retina, the inner lining of the eye where it electrically stimulates optical tissues
- X-ray: A wire trails from inside the eye to its edge and then under the skin to a point behind the ear where patients can place a control box to wireless supply power.