Breakthrough: Microchip Implant Restores Partial Sight

For the first time, scientists have restored the ability of previously blind patients to recognize letters, fruit and other items using light-sensitive microchips implanted in the inner surface of the eye.

The microchip is only approximately 3 millimeters by 3 millimeters in size, but is loaded with 1,500 light detectors that send a grid of electrical impulses through a patient’s nerves to generate a 1,500-pixel image. The device is implanted under the retina, the inner lining of the eye unlike other implants that sit outside the retina and require users to wear an external camera. Since the chip requires a sharp image, the patients wear reading glasses.

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In a paper published in The Procedings of the Royal Society B researchers describe how three patients suffering from hereditary retinal dystrophy regained the ability to identify objects and people and even read words printed in large letters.  The technology involves that natural projection of images through the eye’s lens onto a chip placed under the transparent retina.