The Bionic Eye Could Restore Sight In Some People, And It Is Starting Human Trials

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In a three-month study, a bionic eye developed by a team of biomedical researchers from the University of Sydney and UNSW proved to be safe and robust for long-term implantation, clearing the way for human trials.

In a statement, the University of Sydney revealed that the Phoenix99 Bionic Eye is an implantable technology that allows people with severe visual impairment and blindness caused by degenerative illnesses like retinitis pigmentosa to regain some sort of vision. A stimulator linked to the eye and a communication module positioned beneath the skin behind the ear is the two major components that must be implanted.

The Future for Bionic Eyes - MedicalExpo e-Magazine
The first implantation of a rudimentary version of the bionic eye was reported in 2012

The findings were published in Biomaterials, and the researchers used a sheep model to see how the body reacts and recovers after being implanted with the device, allowing for further improvement of the surgical technique. The biomedical research team is now optimistic that the device will be tested on humans.

The Phoenix99 Bionic Eye stimulates the retina, which is a thin layer of neurons that lines the back of the eye. In healthy eyes, one of the layers’ cells converts incoming light into electrical signals that are delivered to the brain. The cells responsible for this critical conversion deteriorate in several retinal disorders, resulting in vision loss. The technology works around these defective cells by directly stimulating the remaining cells, effectively fooling the brain into thinking the light was detected.

Mr. Samuel Eggenberger, who is working with Professor Gregg Suaning said that their team was thrilled with the result and they are confident to start its human trails. Samuel anticipated that by using this technique, those who have severe vision loss due to degenerative retinal conditions may be able to regain some useable vision.

photo of the two researchers in lab coats Mr Samuel  Eggenbergerand Professor Gregg Suaning
Mr. Samuel Eggenberger and Professor Gregg Suaning (Credit: University of Sydney)

People with certain types of blindness may have new hope now that an experimental sight-restoring device has been approved for use. However, it is yet to be tested on humans, and it will most likely provide only a primitive type of vision. As they continue to develop and test improved stimulation techniques, the University of Sydney statement reported, the researchers will request ethics approval to conduct clinical studies in human patients.

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