Did you ever watch the Six Million Dollar Man? The show was extremely popular in the 1970s and was quickly followed by another show called, The Bionic Woman.
In these two action adventure series, medical science had evolved to the point that they could replace damaged and missing body parts with bionic ones. This, of course, gave the recipient super-human powers that they used for the good of society.
They could run faster than any criminal and were able to throw the bad guys long distances in order to disarm them in a mostly peaceful way. Back then people didnâ€™t often die on a television series â€“ heck, they didnâ€™t even bleed usually.
But thatâ€™s another story.
The bionic breakthrough is much more real than we ever thought it could be back then. A company called Bionic Vision Australia has designed, built, and successfully implanted a bionic eye in a vision impaired woman. The eye has 24 electrodes attached to a small wire that extends from the back of the eye to a receptor located behind the ear.
The recipient, Dianne Ashworth, is not totally blind but has extreme loss of vision which was caused by an inherited condition called retinitis pigmentosa. The disease develops over time with victims experiencing a gradual loss of vision as the photoreceptor cells in their eye die off. Once dead, the cells cannot be regenerated and the vision loss is permanent â€“ or it was.
Ms. Ashworth was fitted with the prototype eye in May at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. A month or so later it was turned on. She says that in mere moments she could see flashes of light and shapes.
Now the researchers will continue to experiment with her new eye, using different levels of electronic stimulation to see how she responds. They will record the consistency of the shapes and the size, location, and brightness of the flashes to see how the brain interprets the information it receives.
This is the first time that a device has been successfully implanted behind the retina. Inserted into a space next to the retina, the device stimulates the area with electric impulses. These impulses go into the brain and create the image.
Not perfected by any means, the bionic eye restores mild vision allowing patients to see contrasts and edges, basically light and dark shapes.
While the eye does not allow people to see clearly, seeing edges does allow them to be more independent because they can see objects in their path. It increases their mobility and independence and is the first step towards more complex prosthetic eyes.
Dr. Penny Allen was the specialist surgeon who implanted the prototype eye. She says that Ms. Ashworth is the first patient to receive the device, and there are plans for two more implantations. After that, the information will be analyzed and used for further development.
She believes that the device will eventually be able to restore black and white vision to patients. The implantation operation is fairly simple and can be easily taught to surgeons all over the world.
Although this very basic eye has 24 electrodes, the team is working on two more versions, one with 98 and one with 1,024 electrodes. These will be tested on other patients in the future.
Cornell University is doing similar research. Researchers there have deciphered the neural code, pulses that transfer vision information to the brain. The research has been done on blind mice and a prosthetic device has been developed that does restore near normal sight in the mice.
It is truly an amazing time that we live in.
source:Â News Daily
photo credit: Army Medicine