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Doctors restore sight to the blind with artificial retinas

DPA/The Local · 19 Dec 2009, 12:08

Published: 19 Dec 2009 12:08 GMT+01:00

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The medical researchers at the University of Tübingen in the southern State of Baden-Württemberg have managed to help blind patients read printed words and recognise objects using the pioneering technique.

In a preview of its Monday edition, Spiegel quoted the medical team as saying that one patient, a 45-year-old Finnish patient named Miika, had improved to such an extent that he was no longer considered legally blind.

“With Miika, we can show that, with the help of the optical prosthesis, he has crossed the boundary beyond which he is no longer regarded as legally blind,” said the research leader, Eberhart Zrenner.

The technique involves grafting tiny microchips, measuring 3mm by 3mm and housing more than 1500 photo cells, onto the patients’ retinas.

The implantation requires a delicate, four-hour operation.

“The body tolerates the implant well,” said Zrenner. “We haven’t seen any serious problems such as inflammation.”

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However the optical chips had to be removed after a few weeks according to the requirements of the university’s medical ethics committee.

Zrenner, who has founded a company called Retina Implant, told the magazine that in the coming year his team could fit about two dozen patients with new, wireless chips that could stay permanently under the retina.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:06 December 19, 2009 by Victor Scicluna
I am so happy to read this article, seeing is perhaps the greatest gift we all have, its unbelievable for these doctors to provide such possibilities to blind people, I am sure the system will improve and improve. well done

One point shocked me... the chip will be removed due to requirements of the ethical comittee ............ maybe it was good meant, but isn´t this cruel to the involved patient to give him/her sight for a few weeks and then say due to ethics we will take it away again.

Can someone from this field enlighten us as to the yes´s & no´s of such ethic decisions.
17:15 December 19, 2009 by wood artist
I'm not sure I understand what the ethical issue is exactly. Can someone enlighten me (us) as to what the ethics committee sees (no pun intended) that raises problems? I thought about this for a while and simply can't come up with an ethical problem, perhaps beyond the questions dealing with who does and doesn't qualify for this treatment, and I assume those would be purely medical decisions, i.e. no underlying conditions that wouldn't allow the things to work.
11:57 December 20, 2009 by LancashireLad
Having worn specs since I was 3 and a half, I also understand what a gift sight is. Of the five senses it is the most valuable and helps us assess our surroundings the most quickly and accurately. It was really cruel to give the sight and then take it away. The "ethical decision" should have been taken before proceeding.
13:09 December 20, 2009 by chuck56
As someone who has lost sight in one eye, and almost in the other eye due to retina damage I am encouraged that this procedure exists. I am dismayed by the removal of the chip after the gift of sight was returned. How do I get in on this experiment where I can keep the chip permanently?
17:33 December 26, 2009 by ishu gupta
AS someone who has lost sight in one eye and almost suffering the same problem in another eye due to retina damage. I have seen ur article and find some hope of getting the eye sight of that person back.How do i get in this experiment where i can take the treatment.plz rply as early as possible we realy need ur help & we are really thankful to u.
01:33 March 8, 2010 by juja
I'd like to know if this could be a solution for blindness caused by glaucoma (it means that the nerves are dead), or "only" in cases of retina-damages? thanks
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