The first human clinical trials involving a bionic eye are set to begin in Australia, researchers say.
The “revolutionary’’ device — which includes glasses fitted with a video camera and miniature electrical panels implanted in the brain — has been in the works for the past decade and is now ready to be tested on patients, said the scientists at Monash University.
The technology aims “to restore visual perception to those who have lost vision by delivering electrical stimulation to the visual cortex, the region of the brain that receives, integrates and processes visual information,” said project director Arthur Lowery in a recent release.
“Our design creates a visual pattern from combinations of up to 172 spots of light (phosphenes), which provides information for the individual to navigate indoor and outdoor environments and recognize the presence of people and objects around them,” the professor said.
The researchers noted that many people are blind because they have damaged optic nerves, which do not allow their eyes’ retinas to pass information to the brain’s “vision center.’’
The bionic eye solves this problem, they said.
Its complex headgear includes a video camera and wireless transmitter that sends images to a “processor unit’’ about the size of a smartphone.
Data collected by the processor is then transmitted to the tiles, which are about a third of an inch square and implanted on the patient’s brain.
The tiles convert the data into electrical impulses that stimulate the brain with “hair-thin microelectrodes’’ to produce images for the patient to “see.’’
Previous tests involving the bionic eye on sheep were successful, the researchers said.
Human testing will be done in Melbourne, they said.