German doctors have implanted a special microchip in the retina of a blind Finnish man, enabling him to see, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday on its website.

The 1,500-pixel sensor chip can mimic the electrical signals sent by a healthy eye through the nervous system to the brain.

The patient, 45, who was identified only by his first name, Miika, was able to orient himself by sight and read letters of the alphabet, according to the magazine.

The device, developed by the German company Retina Implant, was inserted at the University of Tuebingen medical school.

But under university science ethics rules, the experimental device had to be removed several weeks later.

“Miika showed that with an aid we can give people enough sight that they are no longer legally blind,” Eberhart Zrenner, head of the team, was quoted saying. The implant fitted into the retina in a four-hour operation was just three millimetres across.

Zrenner said he would give about two dozen blind people the power of sight next year. Retina Implant's website said electrical power for the chip will be supplied wirelessly by high-frequency radiation.