The memorable red glow of the Terminator’s bionic eye may be a reality to our near future, as scientists at the University of Newcastle Neuro-prosthesis Lab are currently developing a bionic eye and brain implant to restore sight to the blind.
The focus of the bionic eye is for those suffering from a genetic condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which impairs vision and sometimes causes blindness, however, the technology is also being adapted for those without eyes.
By including gene therapy and an innovative set of glasses, complete with camera and implanted microchip into the brain, the blind should be able to see the world around them in the same way those with full vision do.
The potential of this optobionic innovation is huge – according to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), there are 2 million people with visual impairment in the UK, of which 180,922 were registered as partially blind in 2005. Unlike refractive errors that can be corrected with glasses, or cataracts corrected by surgery, there is currently no treatment for Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary degenerative disease that affects the photoreceptor cells in the eye.
On the University of Newcastle Neuro-prosthesis Lab’s website, they explain that current retinal implants have used electrical stimuli towards improving sight, but there are several drawbacks, including the inability for exact control over placing electrodes near the desired neuron.
The combination of the bionic eye with camera and brain-implanted microchip is the first of its kind to introduce an optical, vs. electrical solution. Know more.