In what could be the biggest breakthrough since the invention of the Braille alphabet, Australia has revealed a prototype of a bionic eye, which was designed to restore sight to those with failing vision. The Australian government had commited $42 million in Australian dollars to the project. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said that the device could be “one of the most important medical advances we see in our lifetime.”
It is designed for patients suffering from degenerative vision loss caused by a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration. It consists of a miniature camera, mounted on glasses, that captures images and sends them to a processor which is kept in the wearer’s pocket. The image is then transmitted wirelessly to a unit, which is surgically implanted in the eye, which directly stimulates surviving neurons in the retina, signalling an image to the brain.
While it will not perfectly restore vision, it is hoped that patients using it will be able to perceive points of light in their field of vision that the brain can reconstruct into an image.
Research director Anthony Burkitt, of Bionic Vision Australia, said “We anticipate that this retinal implant will provide users with increased mobility and independence, and that future versions of the implant will eventually allow recipients to recognize faces and read large print.”
The bionic eye is undergoing tests ahead of the first human implant in 2013.
And they’re not the only ones doing research in this regard:
But that’s not all, don’t forget the research on stem cells that come from eyes to restore eye-sight from blindness.