By Stephanie Stahl

Stephanie Stahl reports…

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An experimental microchip technology is headed for testing in Philadelphia. It could help some blind people see again.

This is a treatment for people with retinitis pigmentosa that’s already been successful in Europe. Here in the United States, Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia has been named the main test site, and researchers are reviewing the technology.

German researchers are in Philadelphia to show how their experimental Retina Implant works. It’s the first to be implanted inside the eye on patients in Europe with retinitis pigmentosa.

“For a blind patient, it’s a new world,” said Professor Eberhart Zrenner, the lead researcher for the Retina Implant. He says the subretinal implant is allowing blind people to recognize objects and read letters.

“Restoring vision to the people who are completely blind, and that’s a huge, exciting step,” said Dr. Julia Haller, with Wills Eye Institute. She says the implant restores some vision by stimulating the retina.

It’s only for retinitis pigmentosa now, but there’s hope it could be eventually expanded to treat other causes of vision loss.

“It actually replaces missing nerve tissue, and that’s something that we haven’t been able to do in the eye,” said Dr. Haller.

The FDA has given some preliminary approval for the U.S. study in Philadelphia. Depending on that final clearance, the implant is expected to be available early next year.

For more information, visit the Wills Eye Institute’s website.

Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS3

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