THE lead scientist behind the breakthrough microchip which has allowed blind people with a genetic disease to see again is working with Singapore doctors and scientists to improve the device.

Professor Eberhart Zrenner has been in Singapore since Monday, when eye experts from the National University Hospital practised putting a new version of the chip in pigs.

They aim to better understand how the device - a 3 sq mm chip covered in light sensors placed inside the retina - and the procedure work so improvements can be made. It is part of a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and the Baden-Wurttemberg area in Germany, where Prof Zrenner is based, which started about two years ago.

The 65-year-old hopes that Singapore will also become a centre for his second clinical trial, which started in May.

The results of his first trial were recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal. Vision was restored to three out of 11 patients with the hereditary degenerative disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP). This affects about 200,000 people worldwide and 1,000 in Singapore.

Symptoms often start with night blindness, followed by tunnel vision and, in some cases, total loss of vision between the ages of about 28 and 50.

Scientist working with S'pore doctors