In Germany alone, about 60,000 people suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary visual defect that can lead to complete blindness. Currently, there are no therapies available to treat the condition.

The patent-protected implant developed by a German company called IIP combines medicinal and information technology with micro-systems technology. They hope to make a big step forward into neurostimulation with the new technology.

How it works: The blind patient has a unique microchip implanted in their eye, wears special glasses with an integrated camera and carries a microcomputer on a belt around their waist. Visual information received by the glasses is converted into electrical pulses by the microcomputer and the pulses then used to stimulate the patient's optic nerve. The implant is supposed to restore limited eyesight to people affected with specific hereditary blindness.

An initial clinical research study has been conducted at four leading university hospitals in Germany and Austria. Of the 20 patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa who participated in the study, 19 reported that their visual perception had been triggered thanks to electrical stimulations from the retina implant.

Following the results of their first clinical trial, a new trial has been launched this year, in cooperation with University Hospital Hamburg, involving patients with macular degeneration.

"We plan to raise up to 10m euro in venture capital funding in the fourth quarter of 2005,” announced the company management. "These funds will be mainly used to finance the clinical trials necessary for the CE Mark and FDA approval processes, to produce the devices necessary for those clinical trials, to continue with research and development and for marketing in connection with the product launch.”; Source: IST Results