Technologies that could transform the treatment of blindness – Bionic Eyes
Degeneration of the retina is the primary cause of blindness. In some cases, the problems are rectifiable, while others, due to specific conditions, do not have effective treatments. However, recently medical experts in the optical industry around the world are introducing revolutionary, technological treatments for blindness.
The Birth of Bionic Eyes
The idea of bionic eyes came into existence thirty years ago. A biomedical engineer from the University of Southern California, Mark Humayun, was working on technology to stimulate the retinas of the blind using electricity. Working in collaboration with a medical technology firm in Sylmar, he used electrical stimulation of the retina to induce phosphenes. Phosphenes help visually-impaired individuals see figures and shapes.
His concept gained the attention of medical researchers, and in 2004, the researchers implanted a bionic eye in six people with complete blindness in one eye. The first bionic eye was titled Argus I, and as reported by the six individuals, the bionic eye did help them perceive shapes and even movements. It was the very first trial of this unique procedure. The results instilled hope in the ability to treat visual impairment and blindness. But there was room for improvement in Argus I and the researchers worked diligently to develop a second version of the bionic eye, Argus II. Today, more than 300 people are experiencing the world through the bionic eye after the European regulators and later by the US Food and Drug Administration approved the technology.
How the Bionic Eye Works
Patients that opt for implantation of the bionic eye have to undergo surgery. The surgical team implants a chip which contains an electrode array. A pair of glasses with a miniature video camera forwards the signals to a processing unit worn by the patient. The processor converts the signals into instructions sent to the device for the prosthesis to take place.
The bionic eye is no longer stuff of science fiction, but a transformative treatments for visual impairment and blindness. Other technologies that are under consideration include gene therapy, Optogenetics, and cell regeneration. www.AB-Max.com.