September 9, 2009

Implants help man see again

A South Jersey man says his eyesight is returning, weeks after doctors at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia implanted electrodes behind his left eye.

Michael Adler, 49, began losing his sight as a child, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday. Recently, when he was sitting in church he saw what he described as an odd white glow -- which turned out to be an open hymnal.

Every day, I can make out more than I could the day before, he told the newspaper after tests at the University of Pennsylvania. It's very weird trying to get used to it.

The type of surgery Adler went through has been tried on 32 people who have lost their eyesight to a severe type of retinitis pigmentosa.

The implants bypass damaged eyes and send signals to the brain.

It's sort of like, all the phone lines are in place and you didn't have the phone, said Julia Haller, the head ophthalmologist at Wills. This replaces the phone.

So far, the surgery does not restore normal sight. Adler sees low-resolution black-and-white images lacking in detail -- his daughter's face shows up as a white oval.

But researchers say great advances have been made in the past few years, and even greater progress is likely in the near future.