THE first UK clinical trials of an electronic eye implant to restore the sight of blind people have proved successful and exceeded expectations, scientists said.

Eye experts developing the pioneering new technology said the first group of British patients to receive the electronic microchips were regaining useful vision just weeks after undergoing surgery.

The news will offer fresh hope for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) – a genetic eye condition that leads to incurable blindness.

Retina Implant, a leading developer of subretinal implants, fitted two RP sufferers with the wireless device in mid-April as part of its UK trial.

The firm said the patients were able to detect light after the microchip was activated, while later they were also able to locate white objects on a dark background.

Ten more British sufferers will be fitted with the devices as part of the British trial, led by Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital and Robert MacLaren, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford and a consultant retinal surgeon at the Oxford Eye Hospital.

They said: "We are excited to be involved in this pioneering subretinal implant technology and to announce the first patients implanted in the UK were successful.

"The visual results of these patients exceeded our expectations.

"This represents a genuinely exciting development and is an important step forward in our attempts to offer people with RP a better quality of life."

The patients will undergo further testing as they adjust to the 3mm by 3mm device.

Robin Millar, 60, from London, is one of the patients who has been fitted with the chip along with 1500 electrodes, implanted below the retina.

The music producer said: "I am able to detect light and distinguish the outlines of certain objects which is an encouraging sign.

"I have even dreamt in very vivid colour for the first time in 25 years so a part of my brain which had gone to sleep has woken up. I feel this is incredibly promising for future research and I'm happy to be contributing to this legacy."

David Head, head of charity RP Fighting Blindness, said: "The completion of the first two implants in the UK is very significant and brings hope to people who have lost their sight as a result of RP."