"There was nothing else but the white cane, a guide dog or possibly speaking," says Professor Eberhart Zrenner, the Founding Director of the Institute for Ophthalmic Research in Tubingen, Germany.
Today, Zrenner is the driving force behind a breakthrough implant technology that has enabled patients who had previously been blind for decades to recognize silverware on a table, read letters as words, and distinguish between different shades of grey.
The device, a three-by three-millimeter, 1,500 pixel electronic chip placed under the retina, is being developed by Retina Implant AG.
To date, 27 people have received the implant. Although still in clinical trial, the cutting-edge technology would radically transform the lives of those who have been robbed of sight.
Research and Development
Professor Eberhart Zrenner began researching retinal implants in 1995.
"Fifteen years ago, people thought this was a crazy idea," said Zrenner. It wasn't clear if the technology would work. New surgery procedures had to be developed and animal tests conducted before we switched to humans.