Patients with retinitis pigmentosa will be given a pair of glasses mounted with a camera which sends signals to an implant.
Ten people with an inherited form of blindness will be fitted with “bionic eye” implants in a procedure funded by NHS England.
Five patients with retinitis pigmentosa will be treated at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and five at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London in 2017.
They will be given a pair of glasses mounted with a camera which captures light and sends wireless signals to an implant in the retina.
The implant then sends information to the brain to help patients regain some sight.
Professor Paulo Stanga, from Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, was involved in trials using the Argus II Bionic Eye to treat the condition.
He said: “I’m delighted that our pioneering research has provided the evidence to support NHS England’s decision to fund the bionic eye for the first time in patients.
“It surpassed all of our expectations when we realised that one of the retinitis pigmentosa patients in Manchester using the bionic eye could identify large letters for the first time in his adult life.”
The procedure will be funded as part of a scheme that assesses treatments that show promise for the future.
Patients will be monitored for a year to see how they implant improves their lives.
Keith Hayman, from Lancashire, had the bionic eye fitted during a trial at the Manchester hospital in 2009.
The 68-year-old, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in his 20s, had to retire as a butcher in 1981 when he became blind.
He said: “Having spent half my life in darkness, I can now tell when my grandchildren run towards me and make out lights twinkling on Christmas trees.
“When I used to go to the pub, I would be talking to a friend, who might have walked off and I couldn’t tell and kept talking to myself.”
Dr Jonathan Fielden, director of specialised commissioning at NHS England, said: “This highly innovative NHS-funded procedure shows real promise and could change lives.
“Now once again the NHS is at the forefront of harnessing ground-breaking science for the benefit patients in this country.”
The Argus II retinal implant, made by Second Sight, has also been trialled to treat those suffering from age-related macular degeneration – the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world with between 20 and 25 million sufferers worldwide.
Article by Sky News