Healthcare: On the Agenda - Implants give RP sufferers sight

In a nutshell

An electronic eye implant was fitted by surgeons inside the eye sockets of two sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) - a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness. These were the first clinical trials to have been conducted in the UK.

How it works

Developed by Retina Implant AG, the implant's sensor converts light into an electrical signal that is picked up by nerves and transmitted to the visual processing region of the brain. Patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, seeing a grainy black and white image. The trial, which will be extended to ten more sufferers in the UK, is being led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital, and Robert MacLaren, consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

PR strategy

The PR was handled by MSL Healthcare, which first contacted BBC and Sky News about the results of an initial trial in 2010 in Germany. During the 2012 trial, both organisations were allowed to film the procedure. Both patients were put up for interview, one for the national press and one for the local press in the Oxford area, as were the surgeons who carried out the operation at King's College Hospital and the Oxford Eye Hospital.

Media coverage

The BBC and Sky covered the story - Sky breaking the embargo by 11 hours - with The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Daily Mail, ITN, the Press Association and regional and trade publications picking up the story.

1 in 3,000-4,000 people in Europe suffers from RP*

1,500 - Number of pixels in each 3mm x 3.5mm microchip*

*Source: Retina Implant AG.

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