Robert MacLaren, Professor of Ophthalmology, assisted by Dr. Thomas Edwards, Nuffield Medical Fellow, used the remotely controlled robot to lift a membrane 100th of a millimeter thick from the retina at the back of the right eye of the Rev. Dr. William Beaver, 70, an Associate Priest at St. Mary the Virgin, Iffley, Oxford. He is the first patient ever to undergo this experimental procedure.
The Robotic Retinal Dissection Device (R2D2) trial is sponsored by the University of Oxford and funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre with support from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital. Additional funding was provided by Zizoz, a Dutch charity for patients with choroideremia, a genetic form of blindness.
The robot needs to operate inside the eye through a single hole that is less than 1 mm in diameter, and it needs to go in and out of the eye through this same hole during various steps of the procedure, even though the eye may rotate. The device is designed to eliminate unwanted tremors in the surgeon’s hand—such as through their pulse—so tiny surgical manipulations can be safely carried out within the eye.
The robot acts like a mechanical hand with seven independent computer-controlled motors resulting in movements as precise as 1000th of a millimeter in scale. In the case of Father Beaver, the patient for this first operation, a membrane growing on the surface of his retina had contracted and pulled it into an uneven shape.
This leads to a distorted image, like looking in a hall of mirrors at a fairground. The membrane is about 100th of a millimeter thick and needed to be dissected off the retina without damaging it.
University of Oxford