British pensioner first to have central vision restored through bionic eye
A partially sighted pensioner has had his central vision restored for the first time in nearly a decade after he received a bionic eye.
Ray Flynn, 80, from Audenshaw, Manchester, is the world’s first patient with advanced dry age related macular degeneration (AMD) to undergo the procedure.
The retired engineer, who has peripheral vision, is also believed to be the first human being to have the use of combined natural and artificial sight.
AMD is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world, with between 20 million and 25 million sufferers worldwide. Flynn, who has experienced deteriorating central vision for the last eight years, said the ailment had affected his quality of life.
But thanks to a successful operation, the avid football fan is now looking forward to a clearer view of his beloved Manchester United on television and the ability to read recipes without the use of a magnifying glass.
He can only watch television if he sits in a certain position and looks from the corner of his eye
Ray's brother, Pete
Developed by Second Sight Medical Products, the Argus II retinal implant that Flynn received last month at Manchester Royal Eye hospital, in a four-hour procedure, works by converting video images captured by a miniature camera housed in the patient’s glasses into a series of small electrical pulses, which are transmitted wirelessly to electrodes on the surface of the retina.
These pulses stimulate the retina’s remaining cells, resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns to regain some visual function.
The implant has already been successfully used worldwide on more than 130 patients with the rare eye disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP). However those patients, unlike Flynn, had no peripheral vision.
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Flynn’s system was turned on for the first time on 1 July, and tests showed that he could make out the outline of people and objects even with his eyes closed.
He said he was taking things slowly as he got used to the system, but was already benefiting. He said: “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.
“It’s definitely improved my vision, but I haven’t been out and about on a bus yet. I don’t think I will for a little while.”
Flynn was a regular at Old Trafford in his younger days and also regularly watched Manchester United play in Europe. His brother Pete, 77, said: “We don’t miss a game on the television, but he can’t make out the players on the pitch and he can only watch if he sits in a certain position and looks from the corner of his eye.
“It gets very tiring for him so watching the first game of the season should be a new experience.
“He is also into his cooking and is a fan of Delia Smith. He does a lot of it by instinct, but using a magnifying glass to follow a recipe takes him a long time and he tries very hard with that.”