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'Bionic eye' Breakthrough can allow the Blind to See
| 09 May 2003
| Steve Connor
Posted on 05/08/2003 5:56:12 PM PDT by wallcrawlr
A "bionic" eye that can help the blind to see has restored partial vision to three people who lost their sight because of incurable disease.
The results of the first clinical trial of an artificial retina implanted into the eye showed that it worked well enough to allow the blind to distinguish light from dark and even to see simple objects.
Each patient had an operation to have the implant fitted over their own damaged retinas. They wore spectacles fitted with miniature video cameras, which transmitted signals to the implanted device.
All the patients could see far better with the device switched on and one of them could even tell the difference between everyday objects.
Scientists from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles released details of the clinical trial yesterday to the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Mark Humayun, professor of ophthalmology at the university's Keck School of Medicine, said the trial broke new ground, showing that an electrical implant in the eye could restore at least the partial sight of people suffering from diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. "We have found that the devices are indeed electrically conducting, and can be used by the patients to detect light or even to distinguish between objects such as a cup or plate in forced-choice tests conducted with one patient so far," Professor Humayun said.
The trial, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, was only designed to demonstrate the essential safety of an electronic retina implant and further, long-term trials are planned to assess its usefulness.
The implant had 16 electrodes, which electrically stimulated the remaining healthy cells of the patient's retina in a pattern that depended on the nature of the signals received from the video cameras.
The patient's own optic nerve transmitted the signals to the visual centres of the brain where they were used to distinguish light from dark, movement and rudimentary shapes.
All tests were based on viewing a computer screen with images of letters or objects. "We plan in the near future to look at how useful the prosthesis can be in activities of daily living," Professor Humayun said.
Each implant measures 4mm by 5mm and is connected via a small cable to a wireless receiver implanted under the skin above the ear, which picks up signals transmitted from miniature video cameras worn on the spectacles.
Professor Humayun said that the initial aim was to allow blind people to perform simple tasks around the house. "Pouring water into a cup, sitting at a table being able to see your plate, your fork and knife. And then beyond that, can they recognise maybe the facial features of their loved ones? Those are things we would like to get to," he said.
The first patient received the implant in February 2002, the second had the operation in July and the third in March this year. None of them has reported finding the prosthesis uncomfortable.
Although components of the devices have been tested in the past, the tests were only temporary, with the prosthesis removed after less than an hour.
The latest trial, though, was intended to be a permanent implant with the electronics being left in place indefinitely unless complications occurred and they had to be removed, Professor Humayun said.
In the future, light-sensitive electrodes might be able to be used. They could directly detect any light entering the eye rather than having to rely on video signals from cameras.
TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Free Republic; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: medicine; sight
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I am the parent of a daughter with a Bionic Ear...I know how important and dynamic technology is changing peoples lives.
I am blind in my right eye...technology like this would be quite helpful, thank you very much.
Can anyone say... Star Trek visor guy...
posted on 05/08/2003 6:04:46 PM PDT
Science fiction is no longer fiction. What a blessing this will be when it is fully developed. And the possibilities for extended vision, into the invisible and even the radio frequencies, are actually possible now.
posted on 05/08/2003 6:07:10 PM PDT
They've been experimenting with much higher resolution versions of this same device. The primary limiting factor is building the artificial retinas in a small enough form-factor that it is practical. As miniaturization improves and the ability to tie electronics directly into the brain improve, these will become more and more capable. On of the interesting things is that most of these artificial retinas are sensitive further into the infrared than a natural human eye.
posted on 05/08/2003 6:09:07 PM PDT
posted on 05/08/2003 6:09:30 PM PDT
by Bob J
(Freerepublic.net...where it's always a happening....)
Can't come soon enough.....
Visor my ass. That's an air filter from a Ford Pinto.
posted on 05/08/2003 6:39:53 PM PDT
actually the frame is a common hair barret thing.... with a air filter from a ford pinto.... : )
This will be great when they get it developed.
I have worked with some blind folks. They were cheerful and happy for the most part, but the limitations on their lives were damnably unfair.
posted on 05/08/2003 6:45:36 PM PDT
(MOAB, the greatest advance in Foreign Relations since the cat-o'-nine-tails!)
This is high speed, low drag stuff.
Big bump for Western Civilization.
posted on 05/08/2003 7:00:47 PM PDT
(A Religion? yah. right.)
Let's take up a collection and buy one for Hans Blix.
To: Blue Screen of Death
posted on 05/08/2003 8:34:33 PM PDT
Back in the 60's an aviation writer named Martin Caidin wrote a short sci fi story titled cyborg aka as the six million dollar man, it seems medical science is catching up with sci fi from 30 years back .
posted on 05/08/2003 8:37:20 PM PDT
by Nebr FAL owner
(.308 "reach out and thump someone " & .50 cal Browning "reach out & CRUSH someone")
I am also a parent of a child with a cochlear implant. She now hears at 25db wearing her implant and is learning to speak. When not wearing her implant - swimming, bathing, or sleeping, she hears virtually nothing. Her implant, a Nucleus Cochlear 24 channel, is the most amazing tool and her progress has been remarkable. My hope is that one day there will be actual cures for people who can not hear or see.
posted on 05/08/2003 11:03:51 PM PDT
My experience is with a Clarion CII w/HiRes. My 2 and a couple month old daughter just recently tested at 10dbs.
Its good to meet you and hear about your success.
I wish you well.
There was this guy driving a mustang thanks to his bionic eye in Wired magazine. This article is about a lesser technology
We have a new MAP scheduled in a couple weeks, so she will probably go up at that point. THanks, I wish you well too.
posted on 05/10/2003 7:46:58 PM PDT
I hate to say this, but I predict a left wing backlash on a small scale against this. They've been attacking people for using the ear pieces (the implants), for "destroying the culture of the deaf", and have encouraged parents not to let there kids go for the surgery. Alot of liberals (also known as sicko's) are more concerned about maintaining a "sufficient" number of deaf people, for future generations to "preserve there culture".
posted on 05/11/2003 12:06:28 AM PDT
by Sonny M
("oderint dum metuant".)
To: Sonny M
WHere do you get your information that these are left wing or liberals? I have to tell you, it doesnt matter what the ideology. When a parent implants a child, they need to make the decision themself for the child and for themselves. It is up to the parent to become knowledgable about the implants. Once in a while the implant does not work the way the family wants it to. There are plenty of Democrats getting the implant too...I was at UCLA a couple months ago and there were several left wing looking people with implants and one woman in particular had a button that said "Proud American against the War". Your logic makes no sense.
posted on 05/11/2003 12:02:35 PM PDT
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