Move over Steve Austin there’s a new bionic man in town and while Ray Flynn can’t be described as “a man barely alive” he has been suffering from a condition known as advanced dry age related macular degeneration (AMD) which has over the last 8 years robbed him of all but his peripheral vision. That is until last month when he underwent an operation to install a retinal implant that it’s hoped will restore most if not all his sight.
The Argus II retinal implant, developed by Second Sight Medical Products has been used worldwide on over 130 patients with another eye disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP), however those people had no vision at all. The implant works by converting images from a camera mounted on a pair of glasses into impulses which are transmitted wirelessly to the implant on the surface of the retina, stimulating the remaining undamaged cells resulting in patterns of light. Over time the patient’s brain interprets these patterns more and more accurately, restoring vision. Mr Flynn is the first person with some remaining vision to have the implant, which means that he will have to integrate the artificial sight with what remains of his real vision.
The procedure would be a boon for sufferers of AMD, which is the main cause of sight loss in the western world , with about 20 to 25 million sufferers worldwide and Ray is already seeing some benefit, despite only having the implant switched on on July 1st. At first he could only make out the outline of people and objects but now he says “Before when I was looking at a plant in the garden it was like a honeycomb in the centre of my eye. That has now disappeared. I can now walk round the garden and see things.”
Among the things he’s most looking forward too is watching his favourite football team again. He used to be a regular at Old Trafford and also followed them in Europe in his younger days but he has been struggling to watch them for the last few seasons (no great loss in the last 2 years IMHO) having to sit sideways on to the TV and watch from the corner of his eye.
The Surgeon responsible for the procedure, Professor Paulo Stanga, has praised Ray’s progress referring to him as someone who has “not given up on losing his central vision” and “a motivated patient and that is crucial.” Professor Stranga is now looking for four more patients to take part in the study saying “On behalf of the Manchester Royal Eye hospital, we feel privileged to be conducting the world’s first study into retinal implants for patients with AMD. This technology is revolutionary and changes patients’ lives – restoring some functional vision and helping them to live more independently”.
Source: The Guardian