Researchers construct artificial eyes for the blind

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Australian scientists developed prototype for bionics eye

An Australian team of researchers succeeded in developing a primitive bionic eye. For this purpose, the specialists of a blind woman implanted 24 electrodes on the retina. The patient who suffered from congenital retinal degeneration then saw a flash of light. Bionics eyes with 98 and more electrodes are now to be developed to make large objects visible and to enable the blind to read in the future. This was announced by the Australian science consortium Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) on Thursday.

Bionics eye to bridge organic malfunction The "early prototype" is to be a preliminary version of the first bionic eye that bridges organic eye malfunctions using technical sensors.

"The electrodes were implanted by the visually impaired Diane Ashworth on her broken retina," reports the BVA. In healthy people, the retina converts the image filtered by the lens and other layers in front into nerve impulses and transmits the information to the brain. The bionic eye prototype contains 24 electrodes to replace this function. "This is a world first - we have implanted a device in the position directly behind the retina that shows the feasibility of our approach. Every stage of the procedure was planned and tested, so I was very confident, ”explains Penny Allen surgeon from the Center for Eye Research Australia, who uses the implant at Diane Ashworth with her team.

Artificial eye for congenital blindness or retinal diseases
The special technique is to be used in the future for congenital blindness as well as for retinal diseases acquired later. One area of ​​application could be age-related retinal regression. However, the prototype only works if it is connected in the laboratory by the scientists. "The first tests were very satisfactory," as the researchers report. In order to find out what the generated images create in the patient's head, they stimulated the electrodes in the laboratory. A “view processor” provides information about the sensory impressions of Diane Ashworth, so that it can be understood how the brain interprets the information transmitted by the electrodes, reports Rob Shepherd, one of the leading scientists.

"Suddenly I saw a little flash of lightning, it was amazing. A different shape appeared in front of my eye with each stimulation, ”the patient reports.“ The team pays attention to the consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of the flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information, ”explains Shepherd.

"The results have met our best expectations, which gives us confidence that we can achieve our vision through further development," says Professor Emeritus David Penington, Chairman of BVA.

Bionics eye to be developed with 98 and 1024 electrodes The Australian scientists have ambitious plans. “The researchers continue to develop and test the vision electrode with 98 electrodes and the implant with very high visual acuity with 1024 electrodes. The tests on patients for these devices will be scheduled in due course, ”says the BVA.

The scientists hope that the devices with 98 implants will make large objects visible. 1024 electrodes should be sufficient to enable even sharp vision, so that faces are recognizable and those affected can read. (ag)

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Video: A Prosthetic Eye for the Blind

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