Artifical Retina Eye-tech developments turn science fiction into fact

by:Mark Frary

Bionics and biology are giving new hope to people with declining sight, writes Mark Frary
It is now 40 years since the first episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, in which Steve Austin was given a bio-nic eye, was aired. The technology was pure fiction but four decades on, just how far have we come? One device that is being dubbed a “bionic eye” has recently become available in the UK for some sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa , a rare, hereditary disease that causes a progressive degeneration of the light-sensitive cells of the retina.
Second Sight’s Argus II is an artificial retina, which works by converting video images captured by a miniature camera housed in the patient’s glasses into small electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina’s remaining cells, resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns, thereby regaining some visual function.
The NHS’s Prescribed Specialised Services Advisory Group has now recommended that Argus II be authorised for implantation into UK patients.
Bionic Vision Australia is also trialling its own version of the bionic eye with three patients. Its version uses a digital camera mounted on a pair of glasses. This sends an image to an array of electrodes implanted into the patient’s eye, which stimulates the retina. The current prototype includes only 24 electrodes, but versions with more resolution are planned. In the prototype, a wire emerges from behind the patient’s ear and is plugged into a backpack of electronics. The company is now working on a fully implantable version…
source: The Times Eye Health