Bionic Eye Implant Restoring Sight To The Blind Could Head To Human Trials Soon
By Ell Ko, 15 Feb 2022
A bionic eye created by researchers at the University of Sydney has shown such promising results that the innovation is set to head towards human trials next.
The Phoenix99 Bionic Eye is implanted directly onto the eye of a user who has severe vision impairments or blindness caused by degeneration of the retina. This eye is made of a stimulator, attached to the eye, and a communication module, inserted behind the ear.
It bypasses damaged cells that disrupt signals transferred between the retina and the brain, and researchers say this “tricks” the brain into believing that it has sensed light from the retina.
A tiny camera is attached to glasses worn by the user, which captures their surroundings and turns the environment into a set of “stimulation instructions,” per a press release by the University. These are then sent wireless through the skin to the communication module behind the ear.
The implant then transfers these instructions to the stimulation module in the eye, which delivers electric impulses to the retina’s neurons. In the same way that regular sight is achieved, the neurons forward the scene to the brain, which interprets a vision.
“There were no unexpected reactions from the tissue around the device and we expect it could safely remain in place for many years,” states one of the researchers, Samuel Eggenberger.
In the study published in Biomaterials, researchers noted promising results when testing the eye out on a sheep model to see its effects and how the body responds to, and heals from, the implantation of the device.
With ethics approval, the biomedical research team will be able to trial the device in human patients, which could bring a whole new world to the restoration of sight.
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