Important breakthrough has been achieved in the field of ophthalmology after scientists restored vision in a woman who’s been blind for 7 years with the use of a bionic eye implant. The implant enabled the woman to distinguish colors and shapes again.
In the first human test of the product, the 30-year-old woman received a wireless visual stimulator chip, inserted into her brain by surgeons from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). After the procedure, the woman was able to see colored flashes, lines, and spots when computer signals were sent to her brain.
The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, didn’t experience any side effects during the procedure.
According to chairman Robert Greenberg, the device, developed as part of the Orion 1 programme by Second Sight, uses technology to restore sight by bypassing the optic nerve in order to stimulate the brain’s visual cortex.
The device has been designed for can’t have their sight restored with the Argus II retinal system, presented at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital last year. The Argus II has limited application because it requires some retinal cells in patients.
However, the bionic implant is more beneficial as it sends signals directly to the brain. It can potentially restore sight in those who lost it for any reason, such as glaucoma, cancer, diabetic retinopathy, or trauma.
What the company plans next is to connect the implant to a camera on a pair of glasses after they’ve received a FDA approval in 2017.
According to UCLA neurosurgeon Nader Pouratian, who implanted the stimulator, the results of the surgery are promising.
“Based on these results, stimulation of the visual cortex has the potential to restore useful vision to the blind, which is important for independence and improving quality of life,” stated Pouratian.