‘World first’ as blind woman gains partial sight with bionic eye
A BIONIC eye has successfully given a blind woman partial sight - and offers new hope to of a potential cure to restore vision.
Dianne Ashworth was fitted with a prototype bionic eye in May at Australia’s Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, which was switched on in June.
Researchers yesterday revealed the device can restores mild vision, allowing patients to make out major contrasts and edges such as light and dark objects for the first time.
Mrs Ashworth, who has severe vision from the inherited condition retinitis pigmentosa, said: “It was really funny when it switched on I was waiting, waiting, then all of a sudden I went ‘yep’. I could see a little flash and it was like a little, I suppose, a splinter.
“There were different shapes and dark black, lines of dark black and white lines together. It was just amazing.”
The bionic eye was designed, built and tested by the Bionic Vision Australia, a consortium of researchers funded by the Australian government.
The eye is equipped with 24 electrodes with a small wire that extends from the back of the eye to a receptor attached behind the ear and is put in to the space next to the retina within the eye.
Bionic Vision Australia said the way it was fitted and operated made it the first of its kind in the world.
Surgeon Dr Penny Allan, who fitted the eye, said: “The device electrically stimulates the retina and electrical impulses are passed through the device, which then stimulate the retina. Those impulses then pass back to the brain, creating the image.
“We didn’t want to have a device that was too complex in a surgical approach that was very difficult to learn.
“What we’re going to be doing is restoring a type of vision which is probably going to be black and white, but what we’re hoping to do for these patients who are severely visually impaired is to give them mobility.”
Around 39 million people worldwide are blind and 246 million have very poor vision.
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