London (England) – Researchers have performed the first successful bionic eye implants in the United States and Britain and have given three people previously blind people the gift of sight. The pea-sized implants are actually video cameras that transmit signals to the optic nerves. This gives the patient rudimentary black and white vision, good enough to detect motion and obstacles.
Mark Humayun, Professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering at the Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles, developed the bionic eye which is part of the Argus II retinal implant project. The eye is linked up to an artificial retina and transmits black and white images to the optic nerve through a sunglasses-mounted transmitter.
US resident Linda Moorfoot was the first patient and received an eye with 16 electrodes, while two patients in Britain received implants with 60 electrodes each. Professor Humayun says bionic eye technology is rapidly advancing and expects to have an eye with 1000 electrodes within the next four to five years. These eyes would give patients basic facial recognition.
Sky News has video and some pictures of the artificial eye. You can view their article here.
An Australian team is also in the bionic eye race and expects to perform its first operation with a few weeks. They will be implanting a 30-electrode eye.