Bionic eye implant breakthrough
Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) has announced the first ever successful implantation of an early prototype bionic eye with 24 electrodes.
A team of researchers at BVA successfully implanted the bionic eye in patient Dianne Ashworth, who has profound vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition.
After years of hard work and planning, Ms Ashworth’s implant was switched on last month at the Bionics Institute, while researchers held their breaths in the next room, observing via video link.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash…it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye,” Ms Ashworth said.
Professor Emeritus David Penington AC, Chairman of Bionic Vision Australia said: “These results have fulfilled our best expectations, giving us confidence that with further development we can achieve useful vision. Much still needs to be done in using the current implant to ‘build’ images for Ms Ashworth. The next big step will be when we commence implants of the full devices.”
Professor Rob Shepherd, Director of the Bionics Institute, led the team in designing, building and testing this early prototype to ensure its safety and efficacy for human implantation. Cochlear technology supported aspects of the project.
The implant is only switched on and stimulated after the eye has recovered fully from the effects of surgery. The next phase of this work involves testing various levels of electrical stimulation with Ms Ashworth.