There are almost 285 million people around the world with visual impairment. Many treatments and technological innovations are developed. The bionic eye may sound like a science fiction thing, but it has been turned into reality.
Surgeon in Manchester have performed the first bionic eye implant in a patient with lost sight.
This works by bridging the gap between light entering the eye and the optic nerve that communicates images to the brain so we can distinguish the things we see.
The team has used lab-created biological tissue for its artificial retina. Since it does not incorporate any rigid foreign materials, the device is less likely to cause problems once implanted. This implant is soft and water-based and is eco-friendly.
This implant has only been tested in a lab environment. Now they are planning to expand its functionality.
Will it be a Cyborg Future?
Along with curing blindness, bionic eyes will make us superhuman. If a bionic eye can let us see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, we would be able to identify types of gases by sight and even look through walls. This means we will be able to zoom in/out, automatically connect with our eyes.
“The human eye is incredibly sensitive, which is why foreign bodies like metal retinal implants can be so damaging, leading to inflammation and/or scarring,” University of Oxford researcher Vanessa Restrepo-Schild explained in a university news release. So to end it, the team is creating the world’s first synthetic, soft tissue retina.
The team incorporates any rigid foreign materials. The device is less likely to cause problems once implanted. “A synthetic biological implant is soft and water-based, so much more friendly to the eye environment,” explained Restrepo-Schild. Lab-created biological tissue for its artificial retina is soft and easy.
So far, the team has only tested its implant in a lab environment, so the next steps are testing it with living tissues and expanding on its functionality. Restrepo-Schild is optimistic about the future practical uses of her creation: “I hope my research is the first step in a journey towards building technology that is soft and biodegradable instead of hard and wasteful.”
Beyond helping people with impaired vision, bionic eyes could eventually give “superpowers” to those who already have no trouble reading the eye chart. Those implants could allow us to see in different light spectrums, give us telescopic sight, or even record what we see and wirelessly upload it to our social networks. The possibilities are endless, and breakthroughs like that of Restrepo-Schild put us one step closer to that age of superhuman sight.
How does this work?
The bionic eye implant receives its visual information from a miniature camera, which mounted on glasses worn by the patient.
They are converted into electrical pulses and transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes attached to the retina.
The electrodes stimulate the remaining retina’s remaining cells, which send the information to the brain.
Bionic opens up the possibility of studying different fields. Like studying microbes could be done without equipment, soldiers can detect mines in a field. The possibilities are endless.
It may be several decades before we get bionic eyes that perfectly restore visual acuity. Until then, R will be keeping a sharp eye out for every development.