Researchers Create a Working Prototype of Bionic Eye

This is the sort of news that makes me think I could survive to see that day when high-tech machines could replace ‘damaged’ human body parts. It took a team of doctors and scientists 20 years to build the prototype that gives the hope to alleviate some forms of blindness in the next few years. The device will be implanted behind the retina and will be capable of transmitting light to optic nerve cells, thereby restoring partial vision.

There are about 22 teams working on projects dedicated towards developing a bionic eye to help those suffering from one of the age related macular degenerative diseases of the retina. The Boston Retinal Implant Project was founded by Dr. Joseph Rizzo III in the late 1980s. “There has been this explosion of interest in this field because basically the technology in the last 20 years has become miniaturized enough and sophisticated enough so that for the first time we can imagine building something small enough to put in the eye,” he said.

“Assembling this thing is really hard,” said Wyatt, whose team of MIT researchers and engineers is responsible for designing and testing the implant. “It has got to be waterproof, vapor-proof and very tiny. It has got to last for 10 years or more in the eye.” The biggest challenge was to save the chip from corrosion which would be inevitable due to the presence of salt water, so they hired a EIC Corp. based metal specialist who was successful in designing a corrosion-proof titanium casing which made the prototype a possibility.

Age related macular vision degeneration is the major cause of blindness in the industrialized world and approximately 2 million Americans suffer from the same. The project has been in research for over 20 years now and since FDA approval is on way, seems like the project is moving towards the first human implant which is possible in the near future.

Not just the practical use of the device, but from a science fiction point of view as well the bionic eye is pretty cool. Even though as of now the prototype is being designed for restoring partial sight for those suffering from degenerative diseases of the retina. Now let’s hope if 20 years got this team of visionary doctors and scientists here, maybe sometime in the next decade they will be able to design a prototype that will be capable of restoring 20/20 clarity, the same as human eye.

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