Image courtesy of Samantha de Silva
Most causes of untreatable blindness occur due to loss of the millions of light sensitive photoreceptor cells that line the retina, similar to the pixels in a digital camera.
Inherited retinal degenerations such as retinitis pigmentosa affect around 1 in 4,000 people, causing a gradual loss of vision and eventual blindness. This is the most common cause of blindness in young people. However, even after a patient’s eyesight has been lost to this condition, the remaining cells in the retina that are not light-sensitive remain intact. The Oxford team has previously shown that these cells can be stimulated to mimic visual responses and restore vision by using a small electronic implant, restoring some vision.