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Medi-tech / H+: Bionic eye implants in sight

Written By Sansation on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 | 22:58

How does a bionic eye work?
One day in the past, bionic eyes were popularly thought to be the creation of the world of science fiction. Nowadays though many consortia of scientists, eye-specialists and tech-companies are developing bionic eyes for real. Medi-tech (medical technology) experts in Germany have recently developed a nano-chip that helps regain the sight of potentially hundreds of thousands of blind and severely visually impaired people or those with developing degenerative eye diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Bionic eye of the future
In Australia, the "cyber-eye" is being developed and in the United Kingdom, a 48-electrode bionic eye has meanwhile been approved for the European market. The US has now as well followed suir with the approval of a 80 electrode bionic eye. As we move ever closer to real satisfactory bionic eye implants, those that allow us to see in great detail (focus vision) as well as spacial vision, bionic eyes become more and more interesting as commercial investments.

This is how someone with
Retinitis Pigmentosa would
typically see the world.
(referred to as "tunnel vision"
For true realistic bionic vision we would be looking at some kind of artificial eye implant with at least some 2056 electrodes which would be used all in once for wide-view mode and at the same time being able to use less electrodes for focal vision. Consider for a moment that a "normal" well-functioning eye has around 128 million photo-receptive cells (120 million rods, 6 million cones and 2 million ganglion cells) that receive light-impulses and redirect those to the brain via 1 to 2 million axons within the optic nerve. Although only some 20% of all this incoming data is translated into the actual vision we consciously experience, it is still a far way out of reach of current technological capabilities. It would mean we are still a few hundred-fold away from where we should be heading.

Retinal implants enable a partial restoration of the vision of some 200,000 people worldwide with RP, and potentially one in ten people over the age of 55 with age-related macular degeneration. The experimental chip has been tested on three men with astonishing results. Watch the YouTube video below for more:

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