Bionic implants that promise to give 45-year-olds the vision of someone 20 years younger could be available in just five years.
The ‘super lenses’ will correct both long and short-sightedness, allowing patients to throw away their glasses for good.
What is more, those who undergo the half-hour operation will not develop cataracts in old age, the British Association’s Festival of Science heard.
Professor James Wolffsohn said: ‘Everyone over 45 would benefit because it means they will be able to see distance and near absolutely naturally.
‘It is the true definition of a bionic eye. You are replacing something that has aged in the eye with a technological structure.’
The concept is based on existing technology – the tiny plastic lenses that have been implanted into the eye after cataract surgery for decades.
These are stiff, however, and while the operation makes vision clearer, it does nothing to treat short or long-sightedness.
More flexible lenses called accommodating intraocular lenses have recently hit the market but they, like laser surgery, only treat either long or short sight.
Scientists are now trying to create extra-flexible ‘super lenses’ which could be squeezed by the eye’s muscles into the shapes needed to focus on both near and distant objects – and all points in between.
They would be inserted into the eye in a simple operation that replaces the existing lens.