A patient at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has become the first in the UK to trial a new implant which uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.

The 88-year-old woman, who is blind in her left eye, was involved in a procedure which saw a 2mm wide microchip being inserted under the centre of her retina.

This chip is able to capture a visual scene via a pair of special glasses which are worn by the patient and contains a video camera that is connected to a small computer attached to the patient’s waistband.

The scene projected by the glasses is transmitted to the computer. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms then process this information and instruct the glasses to focus on what it perceives to be the main object in the image. The glasses project this image as an infra-red beam through the eye to the chip, which converts this into an electrical signal. This signal passes through the retina cells and optical cells into the brain, where it is interpreted as if it were natural vision.

The research forms part of a Europe-wide clinical trial and if successful, could offer hope to those with geographic atrophy (GA), the most common form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

This is why the technology is being trialled with patients who have lost their vision in an eye because of GA. This follows Moorfields recently developing an automated algorithm which can detect geographic atrophy (GA) using a common eye scan in September 2021.

Mahi Muqit, consultant vitreoretinal surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, honorary clinical lecturer at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) research investigator, said: “This groundbreaking device offers the hope of restoration of sight to people suffering vision loss due to dry AMD.

“The success of this operation, and the evidence gathered through this clinical study, will provide the evidence to determine the true potential of this treatment.”

The research is being supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.