Healthcare: On the Agenda - Retinal implant lets the blind see

- In a nutshell

Researchers based in Germany have developed a retinal implant that enabled three blind people to see shapes and objects within days of the implant being installed. Developed by Retinal Implant AG and the Institute for Ophthalmic Research at the University of Tuebingen, the device could revolutionise the lives of up 200,000 people worldwide who suffer from blindness as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease. The research was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

- How does it work?

The device sits underneath the retina, replacing light receptors lost in retinal degeneration. It uses the eye's image processing capabilities beyond the light detection stage to produce a visual perception that follows the patient's eye movements.

- What will happen next?

Robert Maclaren, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital, and Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital in London, are expecting to implant the first UK patients in 2011.

- PR strategy

Schwartz Communications handles PR for Retinal Implant AG. The agency worked with The Royal Society to secure maximum coverage. A press release was sent out under embargo. Schwartz provided the media with interviews with Maclaren and Finnish patient Miikka Terho.

- Media coverage

The story received extensive coverage, in outlets including The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, The Times and BBC News.

1,500 electrodes were implanted below the retina

200k people in the world suffer from retinitis pigmentosa

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