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(BBC)-A retinal implant that may help restore the sight of millions of blind people could be available in two years.
US researchers have been given the go-ahead to implant the prototype device in 50 to 75 patients.
The Argus II system uses a spectacle-mounted camera to feed visual information to electrodes in the eye.
"What we are trying to do is take real-time images from a camera and convert them into tiny electrical pulses that would jump-start the otherwise blind eye and allow patients to see," said Professor Mark Humayun, from the University of Southern California.
Retinal implants are able to partially restore the vision of people with particular forms of blindness caused by diseases such as macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa.
A camera is used to capture pictures, and a processing unit, about the size of a small handheld computer and worn on a belt, converts the visual information into electrical signals.
These are then sent back to the glasses and wirelessly on to a receiver just under the surface of the front of the eye, which in turn feeds them to the electrodes at the rear.
The technology has now been given the go-ahead by the US Food and Drug Administration to be used in an exploratory patient trial.
If successful, the device could be commercialised soon after, costing around $30,000 (£15,000). Other devices could then be developed with higher resolution or a wider field of view, said Professor Humayun.