Surgeons Are Giving Hope to Blind People by Implanting a “Bionic Eye”

surgerySurgeons performed the first operations in Britain using a pioneering “bionic eye”, which in future could help restore sight to blind people…

Two successful operations of building the device into the eyes of two blind patients were performed at Moorfields eye hospital in London.
The device, the first of its kind, includes a video camera and transmitter mounted on eyeglasses. They are connected to an artificial retina, which transmits moving images to the brain via the optic nerve and allows the patient to distinguish elementary images of movement, light and darkness.

Operations were performed as part of an international clinical trial of the technology, known as Argus II retinal insert, which has already proved successful in restoring elemental vision to patients blind due common diseases such as age related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa. American researchers hope to develop a camera the size of grains of peas that could be incorporated in the eyeball, replacing natural tissue by artificial technology. Surgeons are hoping that insert could be available to patients within the NHS health system in three to five years.

Argus II uses a camera to take pictures. They are translated into electrical signals which are transmitted wirelessly to insert behind the retina. Electrodes in the insert  decode the signal to create a rough black-and-white picture that is transmitted through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain can then perceive the pattern of light and dark dots corresponding to the electrodes stimulated.

Mark Humayun, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering at Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles, California, who developed the mentioned technology, said: “The camera is very small and very low power so that it can be placed in your eye and link the movements of the eye with the location of the camera. With the missing information that the brain can fill itself, this area is booming. I hope as all that we will in the next four to five years see the technology that is significantly advanced. “

Linda Moorfoot is one of those U.S. patients that will be provided with the current versions of the implants. She is totally blind for more than a decade due to a hereditary disease called retinitis pigmentosa. With the help of cameras mounted on the sunglasses she now can see the rough outlines of the world composed of bright and dark areas. For Sky News she said: “When I go to hockey or football match of my grandsons I can see the direction that the game is moving in. I can shoot the basket with my grandson, and I can see my granddaughter dancing on the stage. It’s wonderful.”
Insert of Mrs. Moorefoot has just 16 electrodes but the U.S. surgeons have helped to supply two British patients with more advanced device, which has 60 electrodes, in order to create a clearer picture. The California researchers are developing insert with 1,000 electrodes, which should allow facial recognition.

British patients’ identities are hidden while doctors are monitoring their progress. Lyndon da Cruz, retinal consultant surgeon, who with his team conducted the operation, said: “Moorfields expressed pride as one of only three sites in Europe chosen to be part of the development of this exciting technology. The devices are successfully installed in both  patients and who are recovering well after surgery. It is a special experience to be part of the program, which develops a whole new way of treating patients who had not had a second chance for recovery of vision. “

John Marshall, of St.Thomas Hospital in London and the British Society of retinitis pigmentosa, warned that it is still  “early days” for mentioned technologies. He says: “These are very, very good news that devices have been developed. It’s good news that these devices have been built in investigations foer certain individuals. However, the public should not remain under the impression that this will in the near future be a routine surgery for blind because we still have to learn a lot. “

Taken from: Pliva health