Blind Woman Gets Bionic Eye And Is Able To See For First Time In Years

A British woman who lost her sight is now able to see, thanks to an electronic chip implanted in the back of her right eye.

According to The Guardian, 49-year-old Rhian Lewis of Cardiff, Wales was 5 years old when she started experiencing retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disorder.

The disease tore away at the cells that detect light in the retinas, rendering Lewis completely blind in her right eye and nearly as blind in her left eye.

In June, Lewis took part in an ongoing clinical trial at Oxford University's John Radcliffe Hospital involving an ocular implant made by German company Retina Implant AG.

The implant measures just 3 square millimeters, but the procedure in which the implant is placed behind the eye can reportedly take up to eight hours.

Inside the implant, which connects to a small computer typically located behind the ear, are 1,500 light sensors transmitting electric pulses to nerve cells.

Objects are perceived only as flashes of light when the implant is first activated, but as weeks go by, the flashes of light gradually gain shapes and turn into objects, though the objects may only be black and white.

Lewis recalled the first time the device was turned on.

She reportedly said,

[The doctors] 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!

Among the first objects she was able to see was a silver car, due to the bright light it reflected from the sun.

Lewis can adjust the implant's sensitivity, as well as the frequency of its signals, by way of a wireless, handheld power source.

When she recently looked at a large cardboard clock, she was able to tell time for the first time in over six years.

Lewis reportedly said,

It's been maybe eight years that I've had any sort of idea of what my children look like. Now, when I locate something, especially like a spoon or a fork on the table, it's pure elation. I just get so excited that I've got something right.

Since 2012, Retina Implant AG's product has been used in tests to treat retinitis pigmentosa, which is currently incurable.

Before Lewis underwent her operation, the newer version of the implant was only given to patients in Germany.

Citations: British woman with 'bionic eye' speaks of joy after reading clock for first time in years (The Guardian)