The first UK clinical trials of an electronic eye implant designed to restore the sight of blind people have proved successful and "exceeded expectations", scientists said today.

Eye experts developing the pioneering new technology said the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining "useful vision" just weeks after undergoing surgery.

The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) - a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.

Retina Implant AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its UK trial.

The patients were able to detect light immediately after the microchip was activated, while further testing revealed there were also able to locate white objects on a dark background, Retina Implant said.

Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the British trial, which is being led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

They said: "We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were successful.

"The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations. This technology represents a genuinely exciting development and is an import step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life."

The patients will undergo further testing as they adjust to the 3mm by 3mm device in the coming months.

Robin Millar, 60, form London, is one of the patients who has been fitted with the chip along with 1,500 electrodes, which are implanted below the retina.

The music producer said: "Since switching on the device I am able to detect light and distinguish the outlines of certain objects which is an encouraging sign.

"I have even dreamt in very vivid colour for the first time in 25 years so a part of my brain which had gone to sleep has woken up!

"I feel this is incredibly promising for future research and I'm happy to be contributing to this legacy."

The subretinal implant technology has been in clinical trials for more than six years with testing also taking place in Germany. Developers are planning to seek commercial approval following the latest phase of testing.

David Head, head of charity RP Fighting Blindness, said: "The completion of the first two implants in the UK is very significant and brings hope to people who have lost their sight as a result of RP."

RP is an inherited condition which gets worse over time and affects one in every 3,000-4,000 people in Europe.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Skin Cancer Drug Doubles Survival Rate

    A twice-daily skin cancer drug almost doubles the survival times of advanced cancer patients, American scientists have discovered. Researchers from the Jonsson Cancer Center at the <a href="http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/" target="_hplink">University of California</a>, found that advanced melanoma cancer sufferers lived on average of 16 months after receiving the vemurafenib drug. Read the full story here. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/23/skin-cancer-drug-zelboraf-doubles-survival-times_n_1295896.html?ref=uk-lifestyle" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>

  • Breakthrough Test Could Predict Heart Attacks And Strokes

    Scientists have discovered five new genes that cause heart attacks and strokes and hope these findings will enable them to pinpoint when the attacks will strike. The researchers, from <a href="http://www.qmul.ac.uk/" target="_hplink">Queen Mary University</a> of London, identified five generic variants that trigger heart attacks and strokes after investigating blood pressure measurements of 25,000 participants. The aim of the study was to look into the role that genes play in hypertension and high blood pressure. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/18/test-predicts-heart-attack-and-stroke_n_1101174.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Skin Cancer Pill Brings Fresh Hope To Alzheimer's Sufferers

    American scientists have discovered a potential new drug that could help fight against Alzheimer's disease. Neuroscientists from the <a href="http://casemed.case.edu/" target="_hplink">Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine</a> discovered that a skin cancer drug called bexarotene appears to reverse cognitive and memory deficits associated with Alzheimer's when tested on lab mice. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/09/bexarotene-cancer-drug-prevents-alzheimers_n_1265726.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Personalised Skin Cancer Drugs Brings Fresh Hope

    A "personalised" pill for advanced skin cancer that can extend life has been approved for use in the UK. The drug, vemurafenib, only works for patients with a specific variant of the BRAF gene. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/14/personalised-skin-cancer-drug-created_n_1344010.html " target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Genetic Breakthrough Raises Hope For Breast Cancer Sufferers

    The genetic code of the most common form of hereditary breast cancer has been mapped for the first time, offering hope for diagnosis and treatment of the disease in the future. Researchers say they have "fully sequenced" the DNA of two breast cancers caused by a faulty BRCA1 gene, which is responsible for aggressive and highly drug-resistant tumours. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/24/genetic-breakthrough-breast-cancer-hope_n_1299330.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Peanut Allergies - Have Scientists Finally Found A Cure?

    Scientists from the <a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/" target="_hplink">Northwestern University</a> in Chicago have come one step closer to developing a potential cure for peanut allergies, by creating an immune system tolerant to peanuts. The researchers found that they can switch off potentially deadly peanut allergy attacks by tricking the immune system into tolerating nut proteins, and not seeing them as a threat to the body. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/11/peanut-allergies-has-a-cure-been-found_n_1004615.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Lung Cancer Detection Test Trial

    A breakthrough lung cancer detection test is set to be trialled on smokers for the first time in Scotland. If successful, cancers could be identified five years earlier than by current detection methods. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/23/breakthrough-lung-cancer-detection-test-trialled_n_1374925.html " target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Cure For Insomnia A Step Closer After Scientists Discover The Enzyme That Wakes Us Up

    Sleepless nights could soon be a thing of the past as scientists discover a key chemical trigger that suppresses sleep and wakes people up. Researchers from <a href="http://www.bu.edu/" target="_hplink">Boston University </a>found that when the body has too little of the calcium kinase enzyme, it causes the brain to nod off to sleep. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/23/insomnia-cure-a-step-closer-after-enzyme-discovery_n_1109969.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Boiling Breast Cancer Tumours Kills Them In Minutes, Discover Experts

    A new treatment for breast cancer has been discovered after scientists found that breast tumours can be killed in minutes - by boiling them. The latest treatment, known as Preferential Radio-Frequency Ablation, uses a targeted electrical current that heats, or 'boils' the tumour to 70 to 90c (160 to 190f). <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/22/boiling-breast-cancer-tumours-kills-them-in-minutes_n_1107632.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • New Scan Detects Breast Cancer In Seconds Using Anti-Landmine Technology

    British scientists have developed a revolutionary breast-screening system that uses anti-landmine technology to detect cancer in seconds. The radio-wave scanner is safer, cheaper and less painful than traditional mammogram X-rays, and unlike the current system, can be used on women of all ages. <a href="New Scan Detects Breast Cancer In Seconds Using Anti-Landmine Technology " target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.

  • Stem Cell Transplant Offers New Hope For Autism and Parkinson's

    Breakthrough research involving a brain transplant of stem cells could offer hope for the treatment of both autism and Parkinson's disease. The study, from <a href="http://www.harvard.edu/" target="_hplink">Harvard University</a>, has already proven successful with mice. Scientists transferred healthy stem cells from mouse embryos into the brains of adult mice who were unable to use leptin, a hormone that tells the body when to stop eating. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/25/stem-cell-hope-autism-parkinsons_n_1112738.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Gastric Pacemaker To Fight Obesity By Convincing Brain That Stomach Is Full

    A stomach implant that can trick the brain into thinking the stomach is full is the latest hi-tech gadget that experts hope will help fight the flab and beat obesity. The <a href="http://www.abiliti.com/" target="_hplink">Abiliti</a>, or 'Gastric Pacemaker', is a credit card-sized implant, inserted using keyhole surgery, which detects when food has been eaten and sends signals to the brain to create the feeling of fullness. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/08/gastric-pacemaker-beat-obesity_n_1082081.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • 'Fertility Switch' Could Save Women From Pain Of Infertility Or Miscarriage

    Scientists from the <a href="http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/" target="_hplink">Imperial College</a> London have discovered a 'fertility switch' that could help treat infertility and miscarriage in the future. The study, published in the <a href="http://www.nature.com/nm/index.html" target="_hplink">Nature Medicine</a> journal, discovered an enzyme in the body that determines infertility and the chances of miscarriage, as it acts like a 'switch'. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/17/new-hope-for-women-struggling-to-conceive_n_1015554.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • New Once-Daily HIV Pill Available In UK

    Eviplera, a new once-daily pill for the treatment of HIV has been made available in 27 countries of the European Union following approval by the <a href="http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=/pages/home/Home_Page.jsp&jsenabled=true" target="_hplink">European Medicines Agency</a>. The new drug, from <a href="http://www.gilead.com/" target="_hplink">Gilead Sciences</a>, combines three antiretroviral treatments in a single tablet so HIV patients only need to take one tablet a day to treat their condition. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/world-aids-day-2011-new-once-daily-pill-available-in-uk_n_1122590.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.

  • Potent Alzheimer's Vaccine 'Could Prevent Disease From Developing'

    Scientists believe that a potent Alzheimer's vaccine jab could be the secret to preventing the disease developing from its early stages. Researchers from<a href="http://gumc.georgetown.edu/" target="_hplink"> Georgetown University Medical Center</a> in Washington found that an antibody for Alzheimer's disease is more likely to trigger inflammation in the brain the later it is given and that it could potentially be prevented, as long as the vaccine is taken during the very early stages of the disease. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/16/potent-alzheimers-vaccine-could-prevent-disease_n_1096670.html" target="_hplink">Read the full story here</a></strong>.