How does the implant procedure work?
Holz: The process involves microsurgery. The surgeon enters the inner lining of the eye at the edge of the cornea where there is no retina. A small opening is made at this point through which the instruments are placed inside the eye, including a light conductor, an inlet to substitute the volume, and all other required devices.
The first step of the surgery pertains to the removal of the so-called vitreous body. The surgeon makes a small incision through the back of the retina outside of the point of sharpest vision. The chip is then directed under the retina with a special shooter. This shooter is activated outside of the eye. This pushes the chip forward in a cartridge. Once it has been accurately placed under the center of the retina, it is fully released from the shooter. The latter is subsequently slowly removed again. Using so-called heavy water, the retina is attached where the electronic chip is now located to prevent it from shifting.
The chip is located exactly in the central point in the retina that produces the sharpest vision. Finally, a tamponade is inserted, which is either a silicone oil or an air-gas mixture. The air-gas mixture is reabsorbed. After about four weeks, the silicone oil is removed. Patients can now start training and learn how to use the chip.
What does the training after the surgery look like?
Holz: Training takes a year, involving either weekly or biweekly sessions, because the chip requires individual adjustments. The patients wear glasses with built-in electronics and must learn how to use them. The glasses include a built-in camera, which captures an external image. This is translated into light pulses, which are transmitted to the chip. The chip turns the light pulses into electrical pulses, which are sent via the nerve tracts to the brain’s visual cortex in the central nervous system to process the information.