Last updated on June 6th, 2017 at 11:09 am
With nearly 40 million people suffering from loss of sight worldwide and another 124 million affected by low vision, it’s no surprise that researchers are intent on developing novel ways to bring back sight. One such effort is the development of a so-called bionic eye or bionic eye implants.
Bionic eye scientists have one common goal: to establish innovation that’s as efficient for visual specials needs as cochlear implants have actually ended up being for acoustic ones. However different researchers’ methods for attaining this differ. What’s more, bionic eye innovation is still in its infancy compared to cochlear implants for hearing loss.
Numerous bionic eye implants remain in development, however currently only one is available in the United States, and it is suitable only for loss of sight triggered by particular eye diseases. Nevertheless, as research continues, more and more people might quickly gain from modern bionic eyes.
Bionic Eyes Do More Than Prosthetic Eyes
A bionic eye is not the exact same thing as a prosthetic eye. Prosthetic eyes (likewise called “glass eyes” or “artificial eyes”) replace the physical structure and look of an eye that need to be gotten rid of due to trauma, pain, disfigurement or disease. Bionic eye implants, on the other hand, work inside the existing eye structures or in the brain. They are created to achieve functional vision objectives — rather than physical, cosmetic ones.
Just as there is no single cause for loss of sight, there’s similarly no one treatment. To determine whether a bionic eye might help you see, it’s essential to understand the reason(s) for your vision loss.
The process of sight starts when light gets in the eye. The cornea and lens focus light onto the retina at the back of the eyeball. Light-sensitive cells in the retina then convert the concentrated light into electrical energy, which is carried to the brain through the optic nerve.
In blind individuals, part of this process doesn’t work. In some cases, the cornea or lens are damaged or unhealthy, or the retina cannot view light. In others, the signal is lost somewhere along the visual pathway in the brain.
Various bionic eye models take goal at different target areas in the visual path. Presently, retinal implants are the only accepted and commercially offered bionic eyes, though cornea transplants and cataract surgery can replace the cornea and lens if these structures are clouded or are incapable of focusing light for other factors.
Who Can Benefit From Currently Available Bionic Eyes?
In the United States, the FDA has actually authorized simply one commercially offered bionic eye system. The device, called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, was established by a California-based company called Second Sight
The Argus II has been used to restore some level of visual understanding to hundreds of people with severe retinitis pigmentosa — a disease that affects one in 5,000 individuals. The Argus II also is being checked for individuals with a lot more common condition, age-related macular degeneration.
How Retinal Implants Restore Sight
The Argus II is a two-part system: It consists of a little video camera that is installed on a set of glasses and a small array of electrodes that is implanted in the back of the eye, on the retina.
Whatever the video camera sees is transformed into signals that are sent wirelessly to the retinal implant. In action, the chip’s electrodes promote the retinal cells, triggering them to send out the incoming information to the optic nerve so it can be processed by the brain.
Limitations Of Bionic Eyes
Although the Argus II system enables people to determine light, movement and shapes, it does not yet restore sight to the level some might hope. This restriction is mainly due to that the current implant has just 60 electrodes. To see naturally, you’d need about a million.
However, some Argus II users can work well enough to check out large-print books and cross the street on their own. And the company plans to add more electrodes in future designs.
Another limitation of the existing Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System is that it does not enable users to view colors. And it’s costly — expenses connected with the device and procedure amount to nearly $150,000 and might or may not be covered by medical insurance coverage.
The Future Of Bionic Eyes
Future models of the Argus II system will likely feature sophisticated implants with higher varieties of electrodes that are capable of producing sharper, more functional vision for individuals who are blind from retinitis pigmentosa and other retinal diseases, including macular degeneration. It’s possible future implants may likewise be able to produce some degree of color vision.
In addition to Second Sight’s bionic eye, researchers in other places are evaluating devices with much more electrodes, along with devices that bypass the retina and promote the brain directly.