Australians implant 'world first' bionic eye

August 30, 2012
Dr Penny Allen examines bionic eye prototype recipient Ms Dianne Ashworth. Bionic Vision Australia

Australian scientists said Thursday they had successfully implanted a "world first" bionic eye prototype, describing it as a major breakthrough for the visually impaired.

Bionic Vision Australia (BVA), a government-funded , said it had surgically installed an "early prototype" robotic eye in a woman with hereditary sight loss caused by degenerative retinitis pigmentosa.

Described as a "pre-", the tiny device is attached to Dianne Ashworth's retina and contains 24 electrodes which send to stimulate her eye's .

Researchers switched on the device in their laboratory last month after Ashworth had fully recovered from surgery and she said it was an incredible experience.

"I didn't know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash—it was amazing," she said in a statement.

"Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye.

Penny Allen, the surgeon who implanted the device, described it as a "world first".

Ashworth's device only works when it is connected inside the lab and BVA chairman David Penington said it would be used to explore how images were "built" by the brain and eye.

Feedback from the device will be fed into a "vision processor" allowing doctors to determine exactly what Ashworth sees when her retina is subjected to various levels of stimulation.

"The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information," explained Rob Shepherd, director of the Institute which was also involved in the breakthrough.

The team is working towards a "wide-view" 98- device that will provide users with the ability to perceive large objects such as buildings and cars, and a "high-acuity" 1,024-electrode device.

Patients with the high-acuity device are expected to be able to recognise faces and read large print, and BVA said it would be suitable for people with retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

Penington said the early results from Ashworth had "fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision".

"The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices," he said.

Explore further: Eye implants make vision-restoring progress

More information:

Press release

Related Stories

Eye implants make vision-restoring progress

July 18, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- "I was blind once but now I can see.” The words are no longer the sole property of religious testimony and literature. Medical progress is being made in the restoration of vision as evidenced by Second ...

Microchip success for bionic eye

April 3, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Research to restore sight to the clinically blind has reached a critical stage, with testing underway of the prototype microchips that will power the bionic eye.

Recommended for you

Vitamin B3 prevents glaucoma in laboratory mice

February 16, 2017

In mice genetically predisposed to glaucoma, vitamin B3 added to drinking water is effective at preventing the disease, a research team led by Jackson Laboratory Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Simon W.M. ...

GARP2 accelerates retinal degeneration in a mouse model

February 15, 2017

In the retina of the eye, rod and cone cells turn light into electrical signals, the first step toward human vision. University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers are studying rod cell proteins GARP1 and GARP2 to learn ...

Myopia cell discovered in retina

February 6, 2017

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a cell in the retina that may cause myopia when it dysfunctions. The dysfunction may be linked to the amount of time a child spends indoors and away from natural light.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.