Researchers implant world’s first bionic eye...
Australian researchers have successfully implanted the world’s first bionic eye, which has allowed the patient to see shapes.
Ms Dianna Ashworth suffered from sever vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, but after years of hard work, researchers finally turned on the bionic eye prototype affording Ms Ashworth the gift of sight once again.
The bionic prototype, developed by the government-funded Bionic Vision Australia, works by using electrodes to stimulate nerve cells. The user can then differentiate between the stimulated and untouched nerve endings to visual images.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash…it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,” Ms Ashworth said.
The current prototype, which is limited to the environment, works using 24 electrodes. The next stage is to develop a model with 98 electrodes; this would enable patients to see large objects. Eventually the team would like to develop a bionic eye with 1,024, electrodes that works outside of the lab – this would allow people to recognize faces and large print.
Professor Rob Shepherd, Team leader and Director of the Bionics Institute said:
“We are working with Ms Ashworth to determine exactly what she sees each time the retina is stimulated using a purpose built laboratory at the Bionics Institute.”
The implant marks a huge milestone for the team as they can now test first hand how the brain interprets the consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location, all of which is essential research if the technology to move forward.
Professor Emeritus David Penington AC, Chairman of Bionic Vision Australia said:
“Having this unique information will allow us to maximize our technology as it evolves through 2013 and 2014”