REVOLUTIONARY RESEARCH

New bionic eye could give the blind basic sight

A stimulator is positioned on the eye and a communication module implanted behind the ear.

In Summary

• The instructions are sent wirelessly through the skin to the communication module of the prosthesis.

• A very small camera attached to glasses captures the visual scene in front of the wearer. The images are processed into a set of stimulation instructions.

The device
The device
Image: University of Sydney

From pig-to-human heart transplant to, now, bionic eyes, a new study by the University of Sydney has showcased promising results whose effort is to cure or overcome blindness.

The Phoenix99 is a pair of glasses equipped with a tiny video camera that captures the wearer’s field of vision in front of them.

It is planted directly into the user’s eye.

The device itself is designed to restore some vision for patients with severe vision impairments and blindness.

The device converts the image into a wireless signal and then transmitted to a communication module implanted under the skin behind the wearer’s ear.

This is not the first time we are hearing of the development of artificial eyes and promising results tested on a sheep model has helped researchers to refine the surgical procedures needed to install the device and is now ready to be installed in a human being.

Preliminary testing showed positive results, and the device will face ethical approval and human clinical trials next.

Image: Courtesy: Pinterest

How it will work

Essentially, the researchers say the device will trick the brain into believing that it has sensed light.

The bionic eye is made up of two primary components—the stimulator and the communication module.

When implanted, the stimulator attaches to the eye.

The communication module is inserted behind the ear.

The patient's glasses will also have a tiny camera attached to them.

This camera will capture the visual scene in front of the person and transmit it back using a set of stimulation instructions.

The communication module then receives the instructions through the skin.

Ultimately, the bionic eye could allow patients with vision impairments to see the world completely again.

The study also found that the device had a very low impact on the neurons that it “tricked”.

Additionally, there were no unexpected reactions in the tissue that surrounded the device.

As such, the device should be safe to have implanted for many years at a time.