"Bionic Eye" Helps Blind Woman See For The First Time In 16 Years


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockJan 6 2016, 14:28 UTC
445 "Bionic Eye" Helps Blind Woman See For The First Time In 16 Years
Retina Implant AG

A British woman has spoken about her joy after undergoing a ground-breaking surgery that has allowed her to see again.

Rhian Lewis, 49, underwent an eight-hour surgery at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital to fit her with a "bionic eye." The trial surgery involved inserting a 3-by-3 millimeter chip, made by German firm Retina Implant AG, into her right eye beneath her retina. This chip contains over 1,500 light sensors that send electrical signals to nerve cells. This information is then processed by a tiny computer that sits underneath the skin behind her ear.


It can take months for the brain to get used to these new signals and learn to interpret the black-and-white grainy flashes of light. Using a small wireless device, Rhian is able to adjust the sensitivity, contrast and frequency of these signals.

If the trial continues to be a success, the team hope the surgery will be available for free on the National Health Service (NHS).

Lewis, a mother of two, had suffered from retinitis pigmentosa since she was five. This is an inherited disorder that progressively deteriorates eyesight due to the degeneration of photoreceptor cells in the retina. The condition left her totally blind in her right eye for over 16 years and with very minimal sight in her left.

Lewis told the Press Association about the moment they first turned on the bionic eye: “They said I might not get any sensation and then all of a sudden within seconds there was like this flashing in my eye, which has seen nothing for over 16 years, so it was like, oh my god, wow!”


“Honest to god, that felt like Christmas Day,” she added.

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