An 80-year-old man from Manchester is the first person in the world to have received a ‘bionic eye’ transplant for advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Ray Flynn, from Audenshaw in Manchester, received the Argus II retinal prosthesus in June, and was the first person to be implanted with the device as part of a clinical trial for patients with an advanced dry form of the condition.
Mr Flynn’s system was first switched on three weeks ago (July 1). The early tests suggest an excellent outcome, with Mr Fynn able to identify and distinguish the shape and direction of moving lines on a screen. He is even able to identify outlines of people and objects with his eyes closed. Those involved in the trial say it may be the most significant development in treating dry AMD vision loss in a number of years.
“Mr Flynn’s progress is truly remarkable. He is seeing the outline of people and objects very effectively,” said Professor Paulo Stanga, who carried out the procedure at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital on June 6.
The ophthalmic surgeon and professor of ophthalmology at the University of Manchester added: “As far as I am concerned, the first results of the trial are a total success, and I look forward to treating more dry AMD patients with the Argus II as part of this trial. We are currently recruiting four more patients to the trial in Manchester.”
The Argus II, from US-based company Second Sight, bypasses damaged retinal tissue to stimulate remaining cells with electrical pulses. With training the recipient can use the basic information to discriminate outlines, shapes and direction of movement.
The recipient has a small chip implanted in the sub-retinal space, with wires running from the chip around the back of the eye and along the side of the skull, to a position just behind the ear. This is then used in conjunction with a pair of camera glasses and a computer pack, to capture, translate and transmit the information to the chip.
While the device has been tested previously in retinitis pigmentosa, this is the first trial in patients with advanced AMD.
Vice president of Second Sight in Europe, Gregoire Cosendai, said: “This study will aim to establish whether the retention of some peripheral vision in dry AMD patients with severe sight loss – functionally blind patients – can benefit from artificial vision in their central visual field as well as using their remaining peripheral natural vision. This is totally groundbreaking research.”
Professor Stanga added: “If [the study is] successful, perhaps we will subsequently look into recruiting patients with the advanced and scarred wet form of AMD.”