First British patient fitted with bionic eye

A blind man given a bionic eye implant that gives him rudimentary vision became the first British patient to be fitted with a digital chip similar to those used in mobile phone cameras.

Chris James, who had been totally blind for more than 20 years, is able to see a rough outline of simple shapes, and doctors believe that in time -- as his brain "learns" to see again -- he could recognize faces.

"I've always had that thought that one day I would be able to see again," James said. "This is not a cure, but it may put the world into some perspective. It'll give me some imagery rather than just a black world."

Surgeons at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital and King's College Hospital in London are testing the implant in a clinical trial of up to 12 patients with retinitis pigmentosa. The inherited eye disease destroys the retina -- the "seeing" part of the eye.

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