A bionic eye implant has been shown to give blind men and women partial sight back, enabling them to make out shapes and see light. One man, who had been told he would never see again, was able to discern between an apple and a banana and it is believed that UK patients could benefit with the microchip that is implanted behind the eye within just a few months.
The technology is quite incredible. A three millimetre square chip is implanted in the back of the eye with an ultra fine cable running under the skin to a magnet behind the ear. The magnet then connects to a battery pack which can be stored in the trouser or jacket pocket. Light is then converted into electrical signals which are transmitted to the brain so that they can be converted into images.
However, as impressive as the technology is, the impact on the patient’s sight is considerably greater and causing much more of a stir. Over time, the patient’s sight gradually returns so that eventually they can recognise people from up to 20 feet away and can even read clocks and even navigate safely around obstacles.
The results have been tagged as astonishing by eye surgeons and tests continue to show positive results.
Initially, it is believe that the technology will be provided to those people that suffer from retinitis pigmentosa which gradually destroys the light sensitive retina. Presumably, this is the first choice because the implant directly affects and improves that area of the eye.
However, it is also believed that the chip will be rolled out over time to patients suffering from a variety of other sight related problems. Age related macular degeneration effects half a million people and there is currently no known cure. The chip implant could well be used to help sufferers of this disease to recover their eyesight too.