Thursday, May 3, 2012

First Blind Patient with an Electronic Retina

Two blind patients in the UK have had electronic retinas implanted inside of their eyes, and things seem to be going well.  A few weeks after the surgeries, when both retinas were switched on, the patients were both able to recognize the difference between light and dark.  This might not seem like a huge breakthrough but the brain isn't used to receiving signals from an electronic device, so it will take some getting used to.

The device is designed to replace lost cells in the retina.  The microchip contains 1,500 small light detectors, the optic nerve can then receive electronic signals from there and the patients in theory will start regaining their sight once the brain starts to make sense of the signaling.

The device is extremely small but must also comprise of a hearing-aid like device worn behind the ear.  Although it is perfect for people with diseases that degenerate the retina, it won't work for people whose optic nerve is nonfunctional, such as patients with glaucoma.

Regardless, this is the first trial and already the patients can recognize basic large shapes like dinner plates on a table, and researchers think that they may regain a good amount of vision back through the proper use and calibration of these devices.  We'll see what the future has in store.

Mike Selden (3)