JAN 06, 2016 3:14 PM PST

First British Woman Gets Fitted with

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Rhian Lewis recently became the first woman outside of Germany to have her vision restored with the help of a tiny retinal implant device. Lewis, 49, suffers from retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This condition causes the gradual degradation of photoreceptors in the retina, and leads to progressive vision loss to the point of total blindness.

Though there is no cure for RP yet, science and bionics allowed Lewis to see flashes of light for the first time in 16 years. The retinal implant is a tiny 3x3mm chip that contains around 1,500 light sensors, powered by a magnetic coil on the skin. The sensors convert light into electric signals which are then received by the optic nerve.

The images produced by the implant are described as being similar to low-level television - grainy and in black and white. While not the same as unaffected vision, the ability to see outlines of objects and movement is still quite transformative. Watch the video and learn how elated Lewis becomes at being able to see a clock for the first time in years.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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