Scientists at King’s are pioneering a UK trial of a retinal implant for patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that gets worse over time.
Led by Mr Tim Jackson, Senior Clinical Lecturer at King’s and eye surgeon at King’s College Hospital, the team is working in collaboration with Professor Robert MacLaren at the Oxford Eye Hospital.
The first retinal implant surgery was successfully carried out on the first patients last month. Both patients – who had no vision prior to surgery - are doing well. They were able to detect light immediately after the retinal implant microchip was activated. Further testing has shown that both patients are able to locate white objects on a dark background. Over the coming months, the patients will undergo further testing as they come to adjust to the microchip.
The UK trial of the device is set to include 12 patients in total, and is being led by the two centres at King’s College Hospital and Oxford Eye Hospital. Mr Tim Jackson and Professor Robert MacLaren commented: ‘We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were successful. The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations. This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an important step forward in our attempts to offer people with retinitis pigmentosa a better quality of life.’
King’s patient Robin Millar, a 60 year old music producer from London who was one of the two patients to be implanted, said: ‘Since switching on the device I am able to detect light and distinguish the outlines of certain objects. I have even dreamt in very vivid colour for the first time in 25 years, so a part of my brain which had gone to sleep has woken up! I feel this is incredibly promising for future research and I’m happy to be contributing to this legacy.’
Retina Implant’s subretinal implant technology has been in clinical trials for more than six years. Patients involved in Retina Implant’s clinical trials have received a 3x3 mm2 microchip with 1,500 electrodes implanted below the retina. Results from the company’s first human clinical trial published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in November 2010 showed placement of the implant below the retina, in the macular region, provided optimum visual results allowing patients to recognise foreign objects and to read letters to form words. The second human clinical trial, in which patients were implanted with Retina Implant’s new wireless device in Germany, beginning in May 2010, indicated even better visual acuity. The multi-centre phase of this trial was expanded late last year to include two additional sites in Germany, Hong Kong and the UK. Sites in Italy and Hungary are also under agreement to participate.
Data from the first nine patients implanted in Germany in this current trial indicate the best visual acuity to-date, with the majority of patients experiencing restoration of useful vision in daily life. The vast majority of patients are experiencing visual perception indoors and outdoors in both dim and bright environments. Additionally, patients have reported the ability to see objects 30 feet away and to read numbers on a pair of dice.
Important information – selection criteria for the trial at King’s College Hospital
Trial recruitment in the UK is now open and Mr Tim Jackson, Consultant Ophthalmic and Retinal Surgeon at King’s College Hospital, will be specifically looking for patients who meet the following criteria:
Aged 18 to 78 years
A UK citizen Total, or almost total sight loss due to retinitis pigmentosa Blind now, but previously had at least 12 years of vision
Please note that anyone who has enough vision to see shapes or objects will NOT be eligible.
If you think that you, or someone you know, may fit this criteria, and would like to apply to take part in the London part of the retina implant trial, please obtain a referral from your GP or ophthalmologist to Tim Jackson at King’s College Hospital. The Eye Department of the Hospital will then arrange an initial consultation. If you may be suitable for a retinal implant then you may subsequently be offered an appointment to discuss the trial itself. Not all patients who wish to take part in the trial will be eligible to join it.
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