Scientists in Australia last Thursday stated to the media that a bionic eye prototype has been successfully implanted, and that the “world first” represents a major medical breakthrough for those who are afflicted with visual impairment.
Science consortium Bionic Vision Australia, which operates with government funds, said that a robotic eye, in prototype form, was implanted in a woman who was suffering from degenerative retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary vision-loss condition.
The device implanted contains 24 electrodes and send electrical impulses in order to stimulate the eye’s nerve cells. The “pre-bionic eye” attaches to the retina.
Dianne Ashworth, the recipient of the robotic eye, had the device switched on by researchers once she had recovered from surgery.
“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,” she exclaimed in a statement to the media.
For now, the device only works when connected in the lab. Rob Shepherd, Bionics Institute director, who was also involved in the ground-breaking project, stated: “The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information.”
BVA chairman David Pennington spoke of the results with Ashworth, and said the findings: “fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision”.
“The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices,” said the researcher.