June 12, 2012
Bionic Eyes To Be Tested In 2013
|Australian researchers plan to begin testing a bionic eye prototype on human patients in 2013. The new device is being developed by Bionic Vision Australia, and is aimed at helping patients with genetic eye conditions see large objects. It includes an implanted chip that uses 98 separate electrodes to stimulate the patient's retina so that they can "perceive vision."|
Bionic vision technology aims to restore the sense of vision to people living with blindness and low vision. Initially, the technology targets patients with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. With time and more research, it is possible that in future this technology can also help patients with other vision impairment conditions.
To deliver different outcomes/functional aims for patients, two prototypes are in development: a wide-view device and a high-acuity device.
The Wide-View retinal implant uses some of the technologies which were employed in cochlear implants. The implanted chip has 98 electrodes to stimulate the retina and enable patients to perceive vision.
The device is to be implanted in the suprachoroidal space to protect the retina from mechanical damage during insertion and helps to maintain it in position. With this implant, BVA aims to provide patients the ability to move around large objects such as buildings, cars and park benches and to lead more independent lives.
The High-Acuity device aims to provide functional central vision to the user, to assist with tasks such as face-recognition and reading large print. The implant will have an electrode array with up to 1024 stimulating electrodes to perceive more detailed vision.
BVA is using diamond materials to form the electrode array and to seal the implant. Diamond is a very biocompatible because it is an inert material. which means that surrounding tissues will not be irritated by the implant. This means that the implant will be safe to stay in the body for the lifetime of the patient.
The first set of patient tests in 2014 will use a completely wired device. In the next stage of testing, BVA targets use of a device with only some wiring, working towards a totally wireless system in the final stage, where both data and power will be transferred wirelessly to the implant. It is expected patients to be able to recognise faces and read large print somewhere between the second and third line of a Snellen chart. The first patients for the High-Acuity device will be people with retinitis pigmentosa, and BVA is aiming to develop the technology so it will be suitable for people with age-related macular degeneration.
Patients with the high-acuity device may be able to recognise faces and read large print somewhere between the second and third line of a Snellen chart. The high-acuity device may be most suitable to patients with age-related macular degeneration and should be ready for the first tests with patients in 2014. The Wide-View device may be most suitable for patients with retinitis pigmentosa. They anticipate that the device will be ready for the first tests with patients in 2013.
Along with other research at Stanford and in Germany, the future of bionic vision looks very promising.
SOURCE The Verge, Bionic Vision Australia
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