Bionic Vision Australia, a government-funded research consortium in Carlton, Victoria, announced Thursday that it has successfully implanted and tested an early prototype bionic eye. Dr. Penny Allen, a retinal surgeon, implanted the prototype in the retina of Dianne Ashworth, a volunteer subject who suffers from profound vision loss from an inherited condition called retinitis pigmentosa. After a recovery period, researchers tested the device in a lab at the Bionics Institute in East Melbourne. According to an announcement from Bionic Vision Australia, Ashworth reported, “I didn’t know what to expect, but all of a sudden, I could see a little flash … it was amazing. Every time there was stimulation there was a different shape that appeared in front of my eye.”
The wide-view prototype contains 24 electrodes that researchers believe can be used to deliver images to the brain. The consortium is now working on a newer wide-view implant that will deliver higher-resolution images using 98 electrodes, as well as a high-acuity implant with 1,024 electrodes.
Rob Shepherd, director of the Bionics Institute says, “We are working with Ms. Ashworth to determine exactly what she sees each time the retina is stimulated using a purpose built laboratory at the Bionics Institute. The team is looking for consistency of shapes, brightness, size and location of flashes to determine how the brain interprets this information.”
(Image Credits: David Mirabella, Bionic Vision Australia)